Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My Ipsy Favorites: Part Two


Recently, I posted about my Ipsy favorites. I had decided awhile back to start posting favorites on occasion because you can see what I've liked and used, as opposed to just seeing what I've received. Why? Well, honestly it's because I don't always like or use everything I've gotten, and because I feel like I should give at least a brief report on those items that I do like. At any rate, here's part two of my faves!




The item on the left, is in here by accident! It's a Maybelline product I picked up at the drugstore, so I'm not going to review it here. 
The second item is Smashbox's Camera Ready primer. It has that nice kind of tacky texture that helps makeup adhere to your face, so I like to use it for special occasions when I want a fuller coverage that lasts for a few hours. 
The third item is Boo Boo Cover Up by Boo Boo Cover Up. It's got pretty good coverage for hard to conceal areas. I dab it onto blemishes or other problem spots, let it sit for a bit, and then tap it in with a sponge.




Chella's eyebrow maker -- it is an eyebrow cream contained in a screw cap on the bottom and also comes with an angled brush that is covered up as well -- makes deliciously perfectly pointed eyebrows. 
The Mad Lash mini mascara by the Balm is black as night, has good coverage, and I can lay it on thick and chunky for hitting up a metal show. 
However, when I prefer a more even and elegant mascara look, smashbox's X-rated mascara is better. While the Mad Lash has a hard, plastic bristle (perfect for blobbing on), the X-rated wand has numerous, soft bristles.




The black and silver pen on the end is a triangle-shaped eyebrow pencil that I used completely up. While I wasn't fond of it at first, I got used to it's unique shape and ended up liking it quite a bit. I used it up entirely. I have to admit in hindsight though, nothing really beats a pencil-powder combination. 
The item in the middle is Seraphine's Liquid Coal eyeliner in black. Ever since Almay introduced their felt-tip liquid eyeliner years ago, I've been a huge fan. In fact, I always use a black, felt-tip eyeliner on my tip lids, and this one - while possessing only a small tip - is perfect. It is black as night and covers well without easily smearing. 
The last item is Skinn's Bright Eyes nude eyeliner pencil. I love this item! I use it on my water line to brighten up my eyes. This is especially great on work days when I'm tired in the mornings. It really perks up my eyes and showcases them.




Ofra's Banana highlighter really has a banana-yellow color. It's a subtle highlighter that I love for a day look.
The bottom left item is a bronzer/contour pot. I've used it quite a bit as a blush, but I have used it as a contour as well. While some people would lament how it doesn't apply as well as one would like...for my purposes it has worked great.
Seraphine's Ginger + Gold peachy blush is awesome. I use it for times when I don't want a pinkish blush, and the coverage is perfect. In fact, I stopped using the bronzer for blush after I got this one.
Last up is Urban Decay's Afterglow highlighter. Now, this is THE night highlighter to have. With a flesh-colored undertone and a bright, almost glittery overtone, it's the perfect way to highlight your face for a night on the town!


And there you have it, the second of two posts about my ipsy favorites. It won't be the last, not technically, as I will no doubt show you some more of my faves in the future. Until then, have a great Wednesday and a great rest of your week. This weekend, I'll be posting from the road...stay tuned!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Friday the 13th

It's no secret that I love Autumn, Halloween, and generally anything scary. These reasons are why October is my favorite month. It's gorgeous outside, it's the month with the best holiday in the world, and it's always the perfect month to watch scary movies/read scary books.

Filmmakers and publishers will release more scary material this month than any other. Halloween sells! For fans of the macabre, like myself, we revel in this. I revel in this (along with all the other cool stuff I mentioned that makes October my fave) because it means I can get out and see new scary releases, or read them if I prefer.

Of course, my love of the genre doesn't prevent me from indulging in the classics either. If you'll remember, last year I posted about all the classic horror movies we watched leading up to Halloween, and this year will be no exception. However, I got to indulge in one of my favorite classic scary movies in a whole new way.

There's been a resurgence of movie theatres screening old movies. My best friend and I went to see Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window" a few years ago and it was fabulous. Getting to see a classic movie -- that you've only ever seen on a television screen -- breathes new life into it. On top of all the other great stuff about October this year, there's a Friday the 13th in it. This means that, yes, you guessed it, one of my local theatres was showing the originial "Friday the 13th" on Friday the 13th.

My best friend and I went to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to see it, and we thoroughly enjoyed it! It really is a different experience to see a movie in the theatre as opposed to home, and Alamo Drafthouse ensures you have a good viewing experience. They showed old trailers for "Friday the 13th", "Sleepaway Camp" (among others) and screened Jon Lajoie's music video for "A New Beginning", his nod to "Friday the 13th: A New Beginning". They even had a local horror movie podcast host come and do some trivia questions and door prizes.

If that wasn't awesome enough, Alamo has strict movie viewing policies. If you arrive late, you don't get in, and they enforce a strict "quiet zone" during the movie. If anyone violates this, you get one warning before being removed. I love this policy as I get tired of always encountering people talking through entire movies in theatres or hearing people's phones ring. This chain also serves beer and food, and has a tastefully decorated theatre with no snack counters. For more info visit their website.

Alamo routinely shows older movies. I've seen them promote "Kill Bill", the entire Miyazaki collection, and for October, it's a whole month of classic horror films. Even if you don't have an Alamo where you live, see if you can find a theatre that will show classic films. We went to an entirely different theatre to see the special screening of "Rear Window", and that same theatre was showing "Friday the 13th" at midnight on Friday the 13th. I'm really glad we went to Alamo instead.



Hey...what's that behind you?











Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Profound Sense of Loss


It's been a quiet week of repose for me as I lost a friend recently. While we weren't the closest of friends, I still considered him a friend, and his loss has definitely had an impact. He was smart as a whip - able to see things about life and the world that I just can't - and he was genuine. To say that he left an empty space within those of us who knew him is an understatement. There are those moments here and there when you think, "I wonder what he would say?" or "What would he think about that?"



Death comes, like a thief in the night,
taking from one the burden of life.



He was young, younger than I, so inevitably, I start thinking about my own life. I've talked about this more than once in the past, and ever since this tragedy has befallen us, I'm more resolved than ever. I'm resolved to make better connections with those I care about so I can have more meaningful relationships. I'm resolved to take care of my body so I can live a longer, healthier, and more robust life. I'm resolved to think more mindfully so I can approach conversations and important tasks in my life with patience and wisdom. Last, but not least, I'm resolved to make plans for my future so I can live the life I choose and not the one I'm stuck with.



Life is an entity, breathing and thrashing,
heart beating and teeth gnashing.



I think too about my friend himself. If I had known he was going to leave this life so soon, I would have made sure to say some things...anything really. Part of the shock is knowing that I can't impart any kind of goodbye, and it makes me sad. I also think about his wife and his kids, and how they are now alone. They're not alone in a literal sense, but they are no longer complete. All they have now are their memories. I've often said before to people, "Take comfort in the good memories you have." While that is certainly true, memories - no matter how great - will ever take the place of the living, breathing, person that you love.



Memories of you float in the air,
I mourn you here, I mourn you there.



Rest in peace my friend. I wish I could tell you how much you'll be missed.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Coffee Talk: The Write Life, Rain, and Random Bits

Good morning! Ahh, there's nothing quite like the smell of fresh, brewed coffee, and that first sip is like heaven. Pardon me for a moment while I take another sip. All right, that's better.

The Write Life had been progressing fairly slow as of late. My husband's computer died, and since he's in school full-time now, he really needed access to a computer. This means, of course, that he's been using mine for the last four months. It's hard to get any of my own work done when he's been on my computer nearly every waking moment doing homework. A couple of weeks ago, we finally got him a new computer, so I've now been getting reacquainted with my computer. Ha!

I've finally, then, been doing some serious writing, and I have to say that it's good to be back in the saddle. Now that I have free reign over my technology again, I'm really hoping to get some freelance work done for extra cash. Vanished is progressing along nicely as well, and I've finished the second chapter. This is definitely a longer book than my previous offerings which means my chapters are longer as well. I'm excited to finally be working on it more aggressively.


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For the seventh day in a row, it's been raining. While I love, love, love the rain -- and understand it's importance -- it's been making it hard for me to walk to work. I wasn't able to walk much this last week, only twice actually, so I thought I'd take a walk when I got home in the evenings. But, it rained off and on every day, making it difficult to walk at any time.

Today, I've resigned myself to defeat and plan on doing an exercise video each day this weekend. It will be a great time for me to catch up on projects and start watching classic and new scary movies for Shocktober. (Of course, you can expect a Halloween movies post in the future.)


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Last Saturday, we had our annual potluck bbq, and it was a great success as well as being lots of fun. We had a good turnout this year, and my homemade schnapps were a big hit! I wish I had made more, so next year I will double the batch. This was the 5th year of the bbq and we always provide the protein while others provide the sides. It's a BYOB event, except for the communal schnapps I make, but guests were gracious enough to bring communal booze as well. It was a pleasant surprise the next morning to see the leftovers, so I put them away for this weekend. We enjoyed some seriously nice drinks last evening, so thank you to my guests a second time!


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I hope your weekend is enjoyable, and you spend it doing something that brings you joy or a sense of accomplishment. - H.A.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Majestic Iowa Mountains

A gate at Preparation Canyon State Park reminds people of where they are at.

Ahhh, the Iowa Mountains. There's nothing nearer and dearer to my nature-loving heart than this magnificent set of formations that are but a stone's throw from my home. I talk about them quite often, something you know to be true, but what are they exactly?




My son stands on a ridge, during a lovely Winter day, at Hitchcock Nature Center.

While I call them the "Iowa Mountains" they are really called "The Loess Hills". There are a few ways to correctly pronounce "loess", but the one I prefer is "luss". Loess is a silt sediment that is formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust. While you can find it in various places around the world (it covers about 10% of the Earth's surface), it's only concentrated in a few places. One of these places is my beloved Iowa Mountains that stretch from the northwest of Iowa to the northwest of Missouri.




An early Spring view of the meandering Hills from Murray Hill Scenic Overlook.

They really are a beautiful sight to behold, and I've encountered some of the most varied and breathtaking views along its ridges.




A Summer view from the same spot at Murray Hill Scenic Overlook.

I've hiked the Iowa Mountains as far north as the Broken Kettle Grasslands in Westfield, Iowa, and as far south as Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge in Forest City, Missouri -- a distance that spans about 212 miles as the crow flies -- and many places in between.


The distance between Broken Kettle and Loess Bluffs. 



My daughter hiking along the eastern ridge of Hitchcock Nature Center on a warm Autumn day.

These hills have kept my sanity over the years, helping me to escape, even for a short while, the bitter pill of reality. Not that reality sucks all the time, I'm not pessimistic, but let's face it...life can get rough. It's during those rough times that I find solace in the Iowa Mountains, the most majestic and beautiful place near me, and one of the most awe inspiring and gorgeous places on the planet. Some people may not agree with me on that, but my resolve on the matter is pretty firm.




An early Fall view of a farm nestled in the valley from the ridges of Turin Prairie.

While I've traveled the world and seen some pretty amazing nature on a much larger scale, it takes nothing away from the smaller-scale nature I'm fortunate to live around. It took me a long time to appreciate that I had incredible vistas outside my back door, but I never take it for granted now. I hope you enjoyed this small glimpse into the Iowa Mountains that I talk so much about, and I sincerely wish for you to be able to see them for yourself one day.

Until then, here are a few more pictures from other areas of the Iowa Mountains I've been to:



A panoramic view from the top of the hills in Loess Hills State Forest on a picture-perfect Autumn day.


A view in a valley at Broken Kettle Grasslands in early Summer.



Sunday, October 1, 2017

Progress!

Back in early August, I posted about how much I had backslid in my overall road to health, and that I had recommitted myself to making a lifestyle change. If you've been following my blog for a good length of time, you already know my story. Four years ago, I was on a sure road to early death. I smoked a pack of cigarettes every day; I was incredibly overweight (obese, if we're being honest); I drank nearly every day; I had gotten to the point where I didn't want to eat anything remotely healthy; I had bad knees, high blood pressure, & hives all over my body; and it was painfully evident that I was in the beginning stages of chronic bronchitis. On top of all that, I was depressed and miserable which only perpetuated and exacerbated my problems.

I remember waking up one morning, looking in the mirror, and being completely mortified by what I had become. I was desperate to make a change, but I saw how far I had fallen and was completely overwhelmed. I liken it to a kid who's room has gotten so insanely messy that they don't know how to start cleaning it. That was me, I didn't know where to start.

Since I knew I had to quit smoking or die, I quit on January 13, 2014. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, but one of the best. By the end of that year, I was still unhealthy in every other area of my life, so I started incorporating vegan food into my diet. I also cut my drinking back to just a few days a week. By the following May, I went full vegan and cut my drinking down to Fridays and/or Saturdays. By Fall of 2015, I had dropped 65 pounds and was feeling the best I had felt in a few decades.

When Spring of 2016 came, I was in a job I hated so I left that job to start working at the one I'm working at now. I love my job and coworkers, so it's been a great mental boost to me. The downside is that there is a constant array of sweets and goodies at my job, and over the past year and a half, I gained back 20 pounds. Not only that, but my activity level had stagnated and I was starting to feel bloated and crappy.

So, on that August day two months ago, I decided I could either cry about gaining back the weight or I could do something about it. I made a decision, then, that I needed to change my relationship with food once and for all, and to start being more active. In other words, I needed to make a permanent lifestyle change. I started counting my calories every day using MyFitnessPal, and I made a goal of walking - at first it was 2 miles a day four days a week, and now it's five days a week - that I map using MapMyWalk. It connects with the calorie counting app, so I can easily see where I am every day.

It was hard at first, but I've kept with it every single day, and I am pleased to announce that I've lost the 20 pounds I gained! This means I'm back to my original loss, and with all the exercise, I'm feeling really good. No more bloat, no more lack of energy, no more sitting around. I'll be doing this as a permanent part of my life, and I'll definitely check back in after the next 20!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Little Rain


The weather has been relatively nice for the past month, so I've been walking to and from work everyday. It not only gives me a chance to get some exercise on a daily basis, but it also gives me time to think. When I walked out of my front door the other day, I could tell that it had rained, and the air was humid and cool. I walked and I thought. I'm suffering from a case of the blues, and it only seems fitting that it rained.

In every life, a little rain must fall, but it's not the actual kind that gets your hair and clothes wet. It's the metaphorical kind that clouds up the sunshine and leaves you staring at the ground. At a time in my life when things do, and should, look up, I feel sad to the core. Why? Some of it is seasonal and some of it is hormones, but the largest part of it is the relationship I have with someone close to me. No matter how hard I try to keep the connection between us going, the harder, it seems, they're trying to tear it down.

I've had to cut ties with a few people in my life over the years, and it's never easy. When you connect with someone, you invest in someone, and it's hard to realize that all the time you've invested in that person has come to naught. Some people, you ride it out longer than others, hoping beyond hope that things will improve. The truth, however, is that sometimes...things are the way they are and they will never change.

So, you walk in the rain of life - whether real or metaphorical - and you contemplate what you need to do. Muddled up with that contemplation are feelings of sadness, anger, and relief. It's a mixed bag of emotions that isn't easy to deal with and leaves you with a varying degree of emptiness. Emptiness that only comes from the loss of a relationship with someone close to you. Keep walking my friends: no matter how much it rains, the Sun has to come out eventually.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Latest Libations: 9th Edition


Today, I'm going to share another, regular, edition of Latest Libations. If you'll remember, the last one I did was about the cool brewery tour I took on Labor Day weekend through Central Nebraska. This time, then, it's time to do what I usually do: review the recent beers I've tried lately. This first beer is a stout brewed by Dieselpunk. It has the familiar flavors you find in a good stout, coffee & chocolate, but where other stouts have a robust body and a heavy presence, this beer fails. It's weak and light with a slight alcohol aftertaste. With better quality stouts out there, I won't buy this beer again.





No Bad Apple's Hard-Pressed Apple Cider is a decent cider, but nothing fantastic. I've had worse, but I've had better. Made by Woodchuck, it's perfect for drinking on a nice, Autumn day.





Dark Side Vanilla Porter, brewed by Empyrean Brewery about an hour away from me, this is a good Porter. While dark like a stout, they are not as full as a stout, so this is a beer for people who like dark beers that aren't as robust as a stout. This one has the familiar flavors that one seeks in a porter, coffee & chocolate, but with a hint of vanilla. It works well with the flavor profile of this beer. I recommend this one.





I'm not a fan of Blue Moon beer generally, but when I saw this flavored variety in the Mix-a-Six section, I thought I'd give it a go. While the mango flavor overtakes the wheat flavor, it didn't obliterate it, and the mango was a good taste for this beer. I was pretty impressed as this is much better than the standard Blue Moon, and could see myself drinking a few of these on a weeknight for when you want a decent beer that's refreshing and light.





Odell Brewery always makes a good beer, and their 90 Shilling Ale is no exception. I am not fond of IPAs and sometimes standard ales can lean too hoppy, but I found this one to have the perfect hoppiness that complemented the flavor as opposed to taking away from it. Clean, light, while still robust, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good, quality ale.





I do like a Fat Tire Amber Ale from time to time as I like New Belgium Brewery's beers. So, when I saw a mixed 12-pack sampler of theirs recently, I decided to snag it. One of the beers inside was this special edition Fat Tire Belgian White Ale. Lighter in taste, but not in flavor, this NB brew did not disappoint. It was light, crisp, and refreshing all with a great flavor.





Last, but not least, I'm going to show you this year's schnapps and infused vodka that we made. I made a Spiced Hibiscus & Fruit schnapps (one bottle has already been drunk and it's amazing), and my husband made the infused. The infused is a Bloody Mary vodka with pickling spice, onions, garlic, oregano, cucumber, and jalapenos. They're going to be fantastic at an annual bbq we hold every year.



That's it for this edition of Latest Libations! I hope you get a chance to try some of these brews sometime and decide for yourself how good (or not) they are. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

My Ipsy Favorites: Part One


I was getting ready for work one morning recently, and I realized that I have never actually come back to review any of the Ipsy products that I've received and used. So, I've gathered up a collection of my favorites in order to share my impressions with you. I have enough for two posts, and this is part one. Let's get going, shall we?





Avene's Hydrance moisturizer, tarte's Maracuja Oil and Skyn's Glacial face wash

I really like this skin care trio. I start by washing my face with the cooling cleanser, then moisturize with the Hydrance, and, afterwards, give my older face a bit of a lift with the oil. The face wash cleans gently and pretty thoroughly, while leaving my skin feeling refreshed. The moisturizer hydrates without being greasy and works well with my combination skin. The oil is great for areas that need more tlc - read: wrinkles - like under my eyes, my forehead, and my neck.





Neuma hair Smoothing Creme, and Jersey Shore Spa's Anti Aging Lip & Hand Polish. 

I have the kind of hair that frizzes up at the first sign of humidity, and this smoothing creme works great at taming it. I put some on after blow-dry my hair, comb it through, and it really does help without having to use a ton. The polish, made with brown sugar and sprinkled with vanilla bean, works wonders on dried-out hands while smelling absolutely divine. I rub this into my hands, rinse it out, and wah-lah, soft hands! I follow it up with a nice hand creme, a cuticle treatment, and some nail polish. Now, that's pampering. 





Trust Fund Beauty Liquid Lipcolor, Lipgloss, and Nyx Butter Lipstick

Trust Fund Beauty seems to make products that I really like. Their matte light mauve liquid lipstick and pink lipgloss are the two lip colors I wear more than any other. I typically use the gloss for work days and the liquid lipstick - accentuated with lipliner - to go with my preferred purple color scheme on my eyes for weekend looks. However, this Nyx butter lipstick is a favorite color for a Fall weekend night out look.





The Balm's Meet Matt(e)Trimony, Naked's Mica Pigment, Pacifica eyeshadow, and Nyx eyeshadow.

These are the favorite eye shadows that I've ever received from Ipsy. The dark maroon color of Meet Matt(e) is on my favorites for a night look, and I always pair it with the far-right shiny purple shadow made by Nyx. The combination of matte and shiny go well together for a dramatic look. The Naked pot is a loose mica pigment in a shimmery light rose, and it's a great thing to apply on top of eyeshadow for a dramatic, bright, glittery look. Last, but not least, is the eyeshadow trio by Pacifica. The trio are shimmery (shimmery has been a trend over the last few years) colors in a light purple, light rust, and nude. As you might be able to tell, I've used that one a lot! It was a preferred item right after I got it as I used it daily there for awhile.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hawks and Monarchs

My dad and my kids, scouting for raptors on top of HNC tower.

Every year, many species of animals, birds, and even insects, migrate from climates that are too cold to warmer ones where they will live until they can migrate back. This past weekend started International Hawk Migration Week, so my Dad traveled down for a visit in order to see the migration. I have the good fortune of living close to Hitchcock Nature Center (HNC), over in the Iowa Mountains, which is a favorite stop for hawks. 




A gorgeous view across the Iowa Mountains from the viewing tower at HNC.

We set out early in the morning for HNC so we would have plenty of time to climb the tower and hike around the park in order to see raptors. Fortunately for us, and unbeknownst at the time, it is also early in the Monarch Butterfly Migration as well. Because of this, plenty of families were at HNC to take part in a Monarch tagging event. 





On top of the neat nature we were set to witness, it was a perfect temperature outside and it was lightly foggy as well. This fog blanketed the forest, and along with the burgeoning Fall colors beginning to shine through, it made everything look all the more stunning.





After the tower, we took a hike along Fox Ridge Run, one of the more popular (and easy) trails in the park.





The kids are keeping an eye out for raptors.





When Fox Ridge Run didn't afford us any view of either migrating species, I suggested we go to the opposite side, along different hills ridges, and hike along Badger Ridge. We were all glad I made that suggestion because we finally saw a handful of hawks AND monarchs. Here I captured two raptors sitting in a tree. I wish I would have brought my good camera instead of relying on my phone's camera!





Here's another shot of the hawks as they flapped their wings. I noticed they would do this whenever the wind picked up.





This shot is my favorite. It's not the greatest photo taken, but it does show the aforementioned hawks sitting in the tree, and I also captured a monarch! See it in flight in the top-center of the photo? I was trying to snap a photo of the monarchs, of which we saw several, but they move so quickly it's hard to capture them unless you have a good camera. Hey, at least I got both migrating species in one photo, right?


My dad is an avid hiker, which is where my love for it comes from. Having my Dad here, then, this past weekend was a lot of fun. Not only did we immensely enjoy getting to see hawks and butterflies as they migrated to warmer climates, but we got to go hiking together in my beloved Iowa Mountains. It was an amazing day, and I hope we can all do something like this again soon. Thanks, Dad. <3




Sunday, September 17, 2017

To Be a Child



I'm halfway through my life, and I struggle, now, to remember what it was like to be a child. I have snippets of memories, a couple of longer memories, and a whole array of feelings or sensations that I associate with my childhood, yet I can't really remember exactly what it was like to be a child. What I do have, however, are two children that I've nurtured and watched grow. While I've watched them both with fascination, it's been my daughter's growth as of late that holds my attention.

My daughter turned eleven this summer, and between then and now the rate of her mental development has astounded me. While I don't remember exactly what it was like to be her age, I see so much of myself in her that I can't help but look back and wonder if that's what I was like. She looks so much like me at that age, and she seems somewhat like the little person I remember being: a bit nerdy, awkward, naive, and full of wonder.

Yet, she's different. She's much more confident in her outsider status, and I can see her beginning to be stronger of mind than myself. Where I was more meek and mild, she's bold and outgoing. I'm so proud of the person she is, and I can't wait to see the woman she grows into.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Old Farm

 Recently, the kids and I took a day trip north of Omaha. During our adventures, we happened upon an old, abandoned farm. If you live in an area with lots of farmland, you know that you can find bits and pieces of yesteryear farms scattered about in some varying degree.

When I was growing up, there were a handful of old abandoned farms in the countryside near the tiny town I lived in. My friends and I would check them out once in awhile to see if we could find any treasures or interesting things inside.


Nowadays, more often than not, in my experience, these old abandoned farm buildings are either located next to or on an existing farm. This means that stopping and grabbing pictures isn't always the easiest thing to do.

I find old abandoned places fascinating, and I sometimes find myself wondering about their history. It was here that my mind wandered as we found a stand-alone abandoned farm that we could stop and take some pictures of.

As we briefly walked the grounds, snapping pictures, I tried to imagine the family that once lived here. Was it a mom, dad, and a few kids? Did they grow wheat in the winter, corn in the summer, and oats, millet, & barley the rest of the year? Did they have a few cows and chickens? Did they have a large garden?



If they were a typical farm family back in the day, then the answer would be yes for many of those questions. I imagine the fields that are next to the old farm - now plowed by large farm equipment - used to be part of the family farm. They used horses and plows to till the land to grow crops. Father and son would do this job along with feeding the animals, harvesting, baling hay, and chopping wood.

Mother and daughter would tend to the garden, prepare meals, sew clothes, do the washing, and keep the house clean.

It won't be too far down the road before these old remaining buildings either collapse completely, or are torn down to make way for something else. Until then, they stand as reminders of a bygone age, and a small walk down memory lane.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dark and Dreary Days

Photo courtesy of author on instagram @halarsonwriter
There's nothing I love more than a dark & dreary day. While I certainly love a warm, sunny day on occasion, it is it's counterpart that reigns supreme in my heart.

While others lament the dark, dreary days as perfect days for staying indoors or in bed, I smile broadly and contemplate where to go and what to do. Nothing makes me want to get outdoors more than this kind of day.

I don't know why I love dark and dreary days so much, but I do. Maybe it has something to do with Autumn, or...maybe that's why I like Autumn so much. There are plenty of dark & dreary days in my favorite season.

I look forward to the overcast days, the hint of rain in the air, the cozy jeans & long-sleeved shirts, the cute little jackets & scarves, the brilliant colors of the leaves as they change, mulled apple cider, and long, comfortable walks in the forest.

Here's to hoping for a dark & dreary day soon.

-H.A.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

New Book Reveal!


I think it's about that time again. Yep, you guessed it: it's time for my latest book reveal! My last book, The Box, was published in May...which was four months ago already. Where has the time gone? Of course, I began work on my latest book before I even finished the last one...it's just how I roll. 

Really, all that means is that I wrote the first paragraph. It's a way for me to cement the idea I have in my head for how the next book will go, and I always have my next book idea firmly in mind before I finish the one at hand.

At any rate, it's time for the reveal:





Ta da! My latest book is called Vanished, and it's another thriller. I'm really excited about this one, and I think you will be too. As an added bonus, I'm going to share a short excerpt from the book:



Finally, Will snapped another picture and pointed another twenty feet or so ahead. “Look…look there,” he whispered. The whisper came out exhilarated and Rudy could see the look of excitement on his partner’s face. He turned to look where Will was pointing, and instantly his heart began to beat faster.
Leaving Will where he was, but being careful all the same, he moved to the spot Will had pointed out, jotted down some more notes, and then grabbed his own smart phone to take a picture while Will joined him.
Rudy spoke first, “Where the hell did they go?”
“It’s like they disappeared into thin air,” Will answered.
Both men stared for a long time at the footprints in the snow, perplexed by what they saw. The new snow was starting to fill in the feet, blurring the indentation of toes and heels. The tracks were of a running stride, they could both tell from the space between steps and how the feet landed in the snow. What was bewildering was that the footprints suddenly ended in mid-run.




So, what do you think? Let me know in the comments! I hope your weekend is grand, and I'll be back in a few days with a new post.

-H.A.




(Any and all parts of this book cover and excerpt belong exclusively to H.A. Larson, and may not be reproduced without explicit permission.)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Latest Libations: Central Nebraska Brewery Tour


This past weekend, I got to take a brewery tour through central Nebraska. Now, it didn't start off to be a tour of a few breweries, but rather an afternoon to do lunch with a few ladies then tour one brewery: Scratchtown Brewery in Ord, NE. The reason we chose Scratchtown is that one of the ladies knows the owner, and they were going to give us a tour of the place. Alas, fate had other plans, and we weren't able to get the tour.




That didn't stop us from sitting on the nice patio of the brewery and having a beer on a gorgeous day.




The tall glass is mine, and it is their Popcorn Daze Ale. While it smelled more like popcorn than tasted like it, I enjoyed this light, yet tasty, beer. After this beer, I had the one on the right called Hills and Hollers. It was a deliciously dark, yet lighter tasting, chicory ale. I wouldn't hesitate to call this my favorite out of the two. 

After a couple of beers and some complimentary pretzels, we formed a plan for what we should do next. Since we weren't able to take the tour, we felt like we needed to check out at least one other brewery. An older gentleman, who was leaving as we were sitting on the patio, suggested we drive northwest into Taylor to try Bootleg Brewers. It was going to be a long drive, but we decided, "Why not?"




Bootleg Brewers is located north of Taylor, NE, and set about three miles in a valley off the main road. Halfway in on the gravel, you finally see a gate and sign that designates where Bootleg's property begins. Located deep in the sandhills of Nebraska, the setting for this place couldn't be any more beautiful.




We were pretty hungry by this time, so I ordered some battered mushrooms and sweet potato fries, both delicious. To go with it, I ordered a Muddy Duck, a perfectly brewed English Brown Ale. If you aren't sure what a brown ale is, think Newcastle or Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale. Bootleg's Muddy Duck was probably my favorite dark beer of the day. Dark, mildly nutty, and chocolately like a porter, I could easily see myself drinking this on a regular basis.




One of the neat things about Bootleg was the cabins situated to the left of the brewery itself. We were told that they are rentable, and this makes total sense as the brewery is way out in the middle of nowhere. One could easily make a night or two out of their trip, especially when live music is playing on the weekends.




Since we were already way out in the sandhills of central Nebraska, we figured that we might as well make our last brewery stop at Kinkaider Brewery in Broken Bow. Now, if you've read any of my past Latest Libations, you'll know that I've had and reviewed Kinkaider before.




You can sit on their back deck and see their brew tanks. Very cool indeed.




I started off with Snozzberry Sour, a delightful, lightly fruity, sour ale.




Since this was our last brewery stop, two of us decided that a flight would be a fantastic idea. Not only does Kinkaider have a standard sized flight, they also have the ultimate flight: The Dirty Dozen Sampler. Simply put, you can get a flight of all twelve of the brews they have on tap. At $18 for 12 four-ounce flights, it's about $6 per 12 ounce beer. My friend and I split the flight, and we also gave a couple of them to our other friend. We enjoyed it immensely. Because the tap brews change, here's the twelve we had, starting on the top left and continuing on the bottom left:

1. Dan the Wiser (Kolsch)
2. Peffercorn Red Ale (Red Ale)
3. Herd Law Honey Wheat (Pale Wheat Ale)
4. Moscow Mule Ale (Blonde Ale)
5. 4-Country Pale Ale (Pale Ale)
6. Buffalo Dress Amber Ale (Red Amber Ale)
7. Snozzberry Sour (Sour Ale)
8. Frame the Butcher IPA (India Pale Ale)
9. Hiram's Bones Porter (Porter)
10. Oktoberfest (Festbier)
11. Bearded Bock Lager (Bock)
12. Devil's Gap Jalapeno Ale (Spiced/Herb Ale)

We discovered that 7 and 12 mixed together were quite delicious, just as an FYI.


What a fun, unique way to spend the day! We had so much fun that we've decided to make this an annual thing. Since it took so long just to drive from home, and then from place to place (I left my home at 9:45 a.m. and didn't get back until 3:00 a.m.), we also decided that it's probably better to rent a place for the night. I don't know about you, but I have my eye on the Bootleg Cabins. 

Until next time, happy drinking!