Friday, June 30, 2017

An Ode to Dreams



Dreams, like clouds, are voluminous, fluffy, 
and just out of reach. 
A life of adventure, inner peace,
and creativity I seek.
My dreams have changed and molded
over the years.
To fit who I am, for I am a person changed
through toils and tears.
My dreams are bigger, more brazen,
and more bold.
A testament to the woman I've become
now that I'm old.


There's something to be said for dreams, and I'm not talking about the ones that visit us in our sleep. I'm talking of the collective set of hopes and aspirations we have about our lives. Over the last five years, my dreams have changed drastically from where they were six years ago, and, over the last five years, have become specific to the person I've grown into over the last five years. I feel that I've finally reached my true self...the person I was meant to be. I guess you could say that's akin to finally, and fully, growing up.

You see, I'm a late bloomer, a fact I've talked about more than once. Because of this, I've achieved a sense of self in my mid-life, not earlier. I'm not sure why this is. I've thought about it quite a bit, and I'm not sure I can pinpoint any one reason or thing that might have contributed to this. It just is what it is. However, having said that, I think one thing might be more indicative than any other: my desire to stay young. By this, I don't mean that I actually wanted to stay young, in fact, I prefer growing older. Rather, I think that I truly believed that in order to "grow up" I had to toss aside all the things about my youth that I still embraced: metal music, child-like curiosity & wonderment, and a firm desire to do things in my own time. I don't, though, I just have to incorporate them into my life to fit it better.

The last five years have been some of my best years in many ways. I've truly come into myself over the last five years, and have come out the other end as the person I want to be. Sure, there is some fine-tuning to be done, but it's all pretty minor. It's my dreams that hold me hostage and mock me. "What does she mean?" you might ask. Well, I'll tell you: You see...my dreams are big. Really big. I guess it's a testament to who I am that my dreams are as big as life as I am. I'm antsy. I'm ready to live my dreams. But, no matter how hard it is to wait, my dreams will still be there when I'm able to achieve them. 

I'm just impatient. 

What are your dreams? What inspires you? Drop a comment down below, and let me know! I'd love to hear from you.


My latest book, The Box, is available through different retailers for $3.99! If you like short, campy, horror books, you will love The Box

Pick it up by following this link: The Box by H.A. Larson 

For information on my other books, link up to my Pronoun Author Page.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Financial Advice for Regular Folks



I don't know about you, but I run into a wall every time I look for financial advice online. This is mainly because I don't fit into the financial/social bracket they're giving advice to. I'm adrift in a sea of financial tips and hints, floating between the two buoys of "Middle Class" and "The Poor". I can't cling to either one of those, because, truth be told, I fall in between the two. I hate to wade between these two buoys, but I don't have any other options as I'm firmly planted between the two.

You see, I'm not poor, but I'm definitely not middle class either...I'm somewhere in between. I've spent the majority of my adult life living in poverty, some because I just didn't make much money, and some because I managed money horribly. Somewhere around the time that I finally moved up out of poverty was about the time that I learned how to manage money. So, while I'm no longer poor, I have a ways to go before I have more than a little in the way of disposable income.

This is why I find financial advice online to be a terrible fit for me. Advice I've seen runs the gamut, from negotiating lower interest rates on credit cards to skipping your coffee-shop fancy coffee; from updating to energy-efficient appliances to taking your lunch to work; from not overpaying your landscaper to waiting until that big ticket item goes on sale; and the list goes on. 

I'm here to tell you this, besides renegotiating my interest rates:

 *I drink coffee from home every day
 *I have used appliances because it's all that I can afford
 *I always, always take my lunch to work (hey ho to all the people that throw a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread in their lunch bag)
 *What landscaper?
 *I can't afford big-ticket items. The last big-item ticket I purchased was a used car.

The kind of financial advice I'm looking for looks something like this:

*What's the best way to invest $1000?
*Is there a real way to save on grocery bills that don't involve couponing or buying just necessities? I don't do the former but practice the latter.
*How to realistically budget when you have no breathing room.
*Are CDs a waste of my money and time?

I'm sure there are plenty of other money-savvy tips and tricks for my income bracket that I don't know about, but would sure like to! The problem is, no one is dispensing this advice. I've had to figure things out and do research to try and find information about this kind of thing, but it would sure be handy if the massive slew of information I see out there, financially speaking, would relate to me. 

Do you have any leads on good places to get financial advice for the Mid-Class-Poor? Or even the poor? Drop some links in the comments, I'd sure love to see them! 

I do dispense common-sense financial advice that I've learned over the years of managing money while being poor-ish from time to time. Click here for learning my budgeting tricks, and here for advice on how anyone can save money.



My latest book, The Box, is available through different retailers for $3.99! If you like short, campy, horror books, you will love The Box

Pick it up by following this link: The Box by H.A. Larson 


For information on my other books, link up to my Pronoun Author Page.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Remembering Ireland: Malahide Castle

Good morning! It's Monday again, which means it's time for the second installment of Remembering Ireland, so let's get started.

On our first day in Dublin, we only had one day in which to see as much as we could -- this is due to the fact that we were only in Dublin on our first and last days of the trip. We arrived to the city exhausted and dirty. We were unable to get a room right away as it was only 7:30 in the morning, so I changed my clothes in their bathroom and freshened up as best as I could before heading over a block to a coffee shop called Roasted Bean. It was interesting getting a coffee in Ireland as opposed to America, because tea is the thing there while coffee is more of a novelty. This was a specialty coffee shop, and I had a pretty cappuccino.

After coffee, we stopped back at the North Star to see if they had a room for us, and they did! I showered straight-away, and we both napped for about an hour. After our brief nap, we went downstairs and talked to a gentleman that works in the lobby as a bit of a tourist guide. He recommended we go to Malahide Castle. We walked across the street to Connolly Station and caught the city train north to Malahide Castle. The castle is in the town of Malahide, which grew up around the castle, and takes about 20 minutes.




Waiting for the city train to take us to the village of Malahide.




A street in the village of Malahide.



The entrance to the grounds of Malahide Castle.



A view of the outside of the Castle Courtyard.



The Castle Courtyard is where the Visitor's Centre, Gift Shop, and Cafe are located. We decided on the Castle Tour as it's the only way to see the inside of the Castle. We were early for the next available tour, so we purchased our tickets, had a pear scone with clotted cream & tea at the Cafe, and bought a few items at the Gift Shop.




Side view of the Castle.



Front entrance of Malahide Castle.


Malahide Castle was built in the 12th Century, well parts of it anyway, and was owned continuously by the Talbot family who occupied it all the way up until 1975! It was too expensive to keep it in the family, especially as the family was down to one older woman. She and her brother, neither having ever gotten married or had kids, lived together there until his death. She then went to the family farm in Australia, and gave the Castle to the Shannon Heritage Foundation (SHF). The SHF is an Irish Government entity that exists to preserve Irish heritage. Every castle we went to in Ireland is owned and operated by the SHF. They work hard to keep Irish history alive.




Second floor landing.


Since the Castle stayed in the family until the 1970s, it was the only castle we went to in Ireland that was furnished.




The Oak Room.

Sorry for the blurry photograph, my old camera always tried its best, but I wish I would have had a better one. Anyway, this picture of the Oak Room, and our lovely tour guide, is my favorite. I loved this room. Dark walls and furnishings so dark, in fact, that the bright light penetrating from the window on the opposite wall still only illuminates a part of it.




The Small Drawing Room.



The Great Hall.




One of the bedrooms.



A bathroom.



Walking back to the train station from the Castle.

All in all, Malahide Castle & Gardens was an awesome place to spend the afternoon. The town was also lovely, and looking back I think I would have explored it more. For more information about Malahide Castle, and how you can visit, click on this link: Malahide Castle & Gardens.

See you next Monday for Limerick, Day One!

-H.A.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Ipsy's June Glam Bag

Good morning! I've got my coffee, and since it's weekend coffee it's even better. What's weekend coffee? Well, in my house, we drink inexpensive coffee during the week, but when the weekend comes I break out my spendy, fancy coffee in the bag and brew that. Either that or I brew a nice pot of quality tea in my coffee press. Today, it's a fancy French roast coffee. Anyway, it's time for that Ipsy post!



Here the bag with card. This month's theme is "Volume Up". The idea behind it is to express yourselves loud and proud.





Here are the contents.





First up is Beauty for Real's 24-7 Eyeliner in a gold color. I was sure it would be another black when I opened it, so I thought this was pretty cool. In last year's April Glam Bag, I received a nude eyeliner called an eye highlighter, and I've been using that in my waterline during the weekdays. It's kinda awesome actually.





Next up is Skyn Iceland's Glacial Face Wash with white Willow bark. I love face washes so when my current one runs out, I'll give this one a go!





I admit it, I love it when I get cosmetics in my glam bags from the major makeup companies. This one is from Nyx and is called Whipped Fouette. It's a lip color and it's called Pink Cloud.





This is a mascara from Doucce called Maxlash Volumizer. I have so many cute little mascaras from my glam bags, and I love them.





I've gotten a handful of cosmetics from The Balm, but this is the first blush I've gotten from them. This one is called Balm Springs, and as you can see from the swatch, that it's a nice light pink color. I like subtle blushes so I'm sure I'll be using this soon.



And there you have it, my most recent Ipsy Glam Bag! I hope your weekend is great and that you have fun stuff planned. I'll have another Ireland post on Monday, so stay tuned!



My latest book, The Box, is available through different retailers for $3.99! If you like short, campy, horror books, you will love The Box

Pick it up by following this link: The Box by H.A. Larson 

For information on my other books, link up to my Pronoun Author Page.

Friday, June 23, 2017

That Time I Conquered My Fear of Heights

On Wednesday I mentioned how we had taken a nice Tuesday evening walk around Hitchcock Nature Center (HNC). It was also notable for the fact that I climbed to the top of the observation tower they have there. This is significant for me because I have a fear of heights that seems to have gotten worse as I've gotten older. When we took our family vacation in April we went to the Mountain Tower in Hot Springs, AR, and when I stepped out onto the uppermost observation deck, a lot of my fear of heights seemed to just disappear. So, when we took our little walk last Tuesday, I climbed to the top of the observation tower there for the first time in the decade I've been going to HNC.





The usual route we take to HNC has been closed due to some serious road construction, so we had to take an alternate route to get there. We got stopped by a train going by, but we didn't mind. We were relaxed and unhurried. This made for a pretty shot with the grain bins and the train nestled against the backdrop of the Iowa Mountains (my name for the Loess Hills).









The first thing we did (we didn't go down into the woods because the mosquitoes would've eaten us alive) was walk the boardwalk trail. We saw some wild hops!





A pretty view across a few layers of the Iowa Mountains from the Boardwalk Trail.









Here's my first shot from atop the Observation Tower. It was my husband, Nature Girl, and I, as The Teen was working, but I sent him a photo of me up here and he said, "Mom! You did it!" It was a pretty big moment for me. While it might not seem like a big deal for many people, keep in mind that I had never climbed this in a decade because I was too scared. My husband and NG were shocked to see me arrive up top to meet them.





Another lovely view from the top. My favorite trail at HNC is just to the right, along the ridge: Fox Ridge Run.





A view from the left side of the tower. If you look dead center of the photo, you can just see the two tallest towers in the Omaha skyline.


Well folks, it's Friday. I have a four-day weekend coming up in celebration of NG's birthday. I'll be back tomorrow with an Ipsy post! Until then, have a great day.

-H.A.




My latest book, The Box, is available through different retailers for $3.99! If you like short, campy, horror books, you will love The Box

Pick it up by following this link: The Box by H.A. Larson 

For information on my other books, link up to my Pronoun Author Page.



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Coffee Talk: Getting Out, Upcoming News, and The Box Update


Good morning. Do you have your coffee? I sure do! Let's get started shall we?


For Summer being upon us, the weather hasn't been gawd-awful, thankfully, so getting outside hasn't been such a task. I've been getting out to my favorite spots, although I've avoided going into the woods because of mosquitoes. Some of my favorite outings lately:

* Getting out to Hitchcock Nature Center on a warm, but breezy Tuesday. There's an observation tower there that, because of my fear of heights, I've never climbed in the decade I've been hiking there. Well, my fear of heights seemed to lessen after our vacation to Arkansas, so I climbed it for the first time ever. It was a small thing, but a big victory for me nonetheless.

* We took a pleasant evening stroll at the OPPD Arboretum. It was nice outside that evening, and we really just had a good time enjoying each other's company.

* For Father's Day, we took a fun Iowa Mountains Adventure. We had a wonderful time and my husband was so happy. We did some new and old things, and it was a blast. I'll be posting about this day soon, including some fantastic photos I took.



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I have some exciting changes coming up on the horizon. It's time for me to ramp things up and move forward more in The Write Life. Every Indie author reaches a point in their writing career when they realize they have to start thinking bigger -- in addition to putting out better content --  if they want to reach the next level with their work. That's where I'm at.

 I've divulged some of these changes to my Newsletter subscribers. If you still haven't subscribed, you can do so at any time on my home page at the top of the right-hand column. It's quick, it's easy, and I'm sending out short & sweet newsletters once a week. What have you got to lose? It's right up there...sign up today!

My one bit of news that I can share with you now is this: I've started researching and writing my next book! I'm really excited about this one, as I have been with each book before it. Not only has my work improved, but my stories have as well. I have a good feeling about this one, and in a few months or so, I'll show you the cover and give you a teaser.



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The Box is doing well, in Indie author terms, and that puts a smile on my face. It's sold a decent amount of copies, and it's gotten two reviews: one bad and one good. It's a win-win for me, even if it's not moving thousands of copies a day. *laugh* I've been doing this long enough now to learn to be patient and not expect a ton. Still, like I mentioned, I have some big changes coming up, so I'm ready to start moving forward more aggressively.


Well, that's all for Coffee Talk today. Have a great day!

-H.A.



My latest book, The Box, is available through different retailers for $3.99! If you like short, campy, horror books, you will love The Box

Pick it up by following this link: The Box by H.A. Larson 

For information on my other books, link up to my Pronoun Author Page.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Remembering Ireland: Dublin & the Guinness Storehouse

Good morning! Today I'm posting the first in my series Remembering Ireland. As I mentioned in Saturday's post about growing as a blogger, I realized I had never made any proper posts about my one and only trip abroad. I think, then, it's only right that I make them now. This is the first post, and it's about the City of Dublin and the Guinness Storehouse. I'll be posting these once a week on Mondays.

A little bit of backstory: my best friend (for 40 years now) Keith and I took this trip to Ireland together. Not that I don't love my husband and kids, but sometimes you need to take trips without your family. Besides, going to Europe was a lifelong dream of mine, and I wanted to be able to enjoy it without dealing with the constant calling of the various forms of my name, "Mom!", "Mommy!", "Babe." Keeping track of kids and keeping my husband happy were not what I had in mind for this dream journey. So, when I found a good online deal for Dublin, Limerick, and Galway, I instantly thought about my best friend. We had talked about taking a trip abroad together sometime, and this seemed like the perfect place to start. It's reasonably priced, they speak English, and it doesn't take as long to get to as other places we could've gone.

Our trip was a week long: Fly into Dublin from Chicago, take the train to Limerick the next day, stay two nights, take the train to Galway, stay two nights, take the train back to Dublin, stay one night, and fly back to Chicago. This meant that we only got the first and last day in Dublin, never really getting a full day there. We arrived in Dublin at 7 a.m., tired and dirty, where we were luckily able to get into a room within an hour. After a shower and a brief nap, we took the city train up to Malahide Castle. Malahide Castle has it's own post, so look for that within the coming weeks. We went out to eat and explored Dublin that evening before heading to Limerick early the next day. When we arrived back in Dublin after a week, we didn't have more than 12 hours to enjoy what we could and sleep before flying out, so we journeyed over to the Guinness Storehouse. 






The North Star Hotel. This was the hotel we stayed at in Dublin both times, and it was conveniently located across the street from Connolly Station. Connolly Station is the largest train station in Dublin, where one can grab the city train or the Irish train for longer trips across the country. The North Star was also conveniently located next to a city bus stop, and a block away from the Luas. The Luas is Dublin's above-ground subway, essentially, and it was a fantastic way to travel around the city.





The Boar's Head is one of the quintessential bars in Dublin, and we made sure to stop and have a Guinness or two. Interesting fact: when ordering a Guinness in Ireland, be prepared to wait awhile before getting your beer. They have special taps just for Guinness, and the barkeep will let the first pour's head die down, then fill it to the top.





Our first evening in Ireland, Dublin, we went to eat the famed Guinness Pie at O'Shea's. Keep in mind, I didn't become a vegan until six months after I came back from Ireland, so while there, I ate the full Irish breakfast every morning, and ate my fair share of Irish food like bangers & mash.





We walked around Dublin after spending the day at Malahide Castle. Before it got dark and we went out to eat supper at O'Shea's, we wandered around the city, taking in the sites and shopping at little convenience stores, thrift shops, and the 0.99 euro store. 





We arrived back in Dublin, on our last day in Ireland, late in the afternoon. I had originally envisioned all these fun things we could do in Dublin: Trinity College, Wicklow Mountains, Jameson Distillery, The Temple Bar, and the Guinness Storehouse. Of course, with our very limited time in Dublin, we took the suggestion of a local the first day (for Malahide Castle), and on the last day, we decided on Guinness Storehouse. As a beer drinker, I loved it! Also, Guinness in Ireland is so much fresher, trust me.





The Storehouse is seven-floors of wonder and a beer-aficionado's dream. There's a gift shop on the first floor, and most of the other floors consist of museum displays, including the detailed descriptions of the beer-making process, and a couple of bars. This was one of many placards that talked about the ingredients that go into Guinness.





One of the ingredients in Guinness, of course, is water so there's a beautifully-lighted waterfall inside the Storehouse.









A view down the center to the first floor.





After seeing all the cool things in the museum and taking the sample-tasting side tour, we made our way to the top floor where the Gravity Bar takes residence. Entirely walled in glass, you can see the entirety of Dublin (including the Wicklow Mountains) by walking around the perimeter. You can also turn in your admission stub for a free pint of Guinness that you can get at the Gravity Bar or the other bar on the premises, but with views like this, why would you go anywhere else?





Another view of Dublin. You can see the rest of the brewery from here, the city, the mountains, and St. Patrick's Cathedral - as evidenced by the glass. One of the many cool things about the Gravity Bar was these snippets of cool information written on the glass of the bar. You could peer out over Dublin and get a glimpse into one of the city landmarks.


I hope you enjoyed this look into Dublin and the Guinness Storehouse. Coming up over the next several weeks: Castles, Medieval Feast, the Cliffs of Moher, and much more!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Growing into a Blogger

You all know how much I've grown and changed as an author, something you've witnessed from a handful of posts I've made over the last few years, but recently I've noticed that I've grown and changed as a blogger as well. I don't think I really ever set out to be a blogger, but rather I started blogging as a way to get myself out there as an author and give people glimpses into my work. Along the way though, over these past five years, I've grown into a blogger as well. 

I think back on how much different my blog looks now as opposed to then, and the different design changes it's gone through. I like looking through my old posts now and again to see the fun things I've done over the years, and since I've been struck with the old wanderlust lately, I was thinking about my one and only trip (so far) outside of North America: Ireland. I thought, "I'll go back and look at my fun vacation posts I made when I got back." However, lo and behold, I only had two scant-reference posts, one post with some castle pictures (no words), and one post with one lone picture! I was aghast! It was then that I realized how much I've grown as a blogger since then, and I think about how much different my Irish trip posts would be if I had taken the trip now. 

So, in honor of my life-changing trip to Europe, I'm going to make a small series of posts dedicated to that trip. Called "Remembering Ireland", I'm going to re-explore my wonderful week there with the posts I should have made. Until then, here's one of my favorite shots from that trip:



Standing on the shoreline of the Burren, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean during sunset.






My latest book, The Box, is available through different retailers for $3.99! If you like short, campy, horror books, you will love The Box

Pick it up by following this link: The Box by H.A. Larson 

For information on my other books, link up to my Pronoun Author Page.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Grocery Store Chinaware

Years ago, my mother-in-law gave us her old hutch when she replaced it with a newer, smaller one. When we first acquired it, we lived in a small apartment, so it sat in our living room as a home for knick-knacks and various bric-a-brac. When we finally moved into a house with a dining room area, I firmly made up my mind to use my hutch for the purpose it was intended. 

I'm a thrift store junkie, and if you are patient enough, you can usually find a good set of antique chinaware for a good price. I spent many months, then, searching for the perfect, full, inexpensive set of chinaware that had once fed another family for Thanksgiving. Until I was able to find a set, I picked up a make-your-own set from the Dollar Tree. After the years rolled by, I feared that I would never find a permanent set. 

Then, a few years ago, I was lamenting my predicament to my stepmom who promptly responded with, "I have that old green set you can have." The old green set was, I knew, an old grocery store set of chinaware that we used for many holiday meals. Now, if you're unfamiliar with grocery store chinaware, you can read up on that here. Basically, giving away chinaware sets, piece by piece, was a great gimmick for boosting sales back in the day.

At any rate, after I read that article, I figured out my set is part of the Royal China Company Currier and Ives collection in green. My set is unique in the fact that it is a complete set. Many of the pieces I've seen on ebay are just pieces from here and there. I have all the plates, saucers, coffee cups, salt & pepper shaker, butter tray, gravy boat, and etc. I think you get the idea. At any rate, I thought I'd share a few pieces of my collection -- on the hutch, of course -- so you can see what it looks like.





Here you can see, going clockwise, a plate, gravy boat on a serving plate, and a sugar dish.





Dessert plates, coffee cups, and a salt & pepper shaker set.





From clockwise, large serving plate, creamer cup (to go along with the sugar bowl), salad bowl, butter dish, and dinner plate.** 



Incidentally, when I was growing up, my dad and I had a set of the Blue Willow grocery store china that my mom built up, piece by piece, after she and my dad first got married. I inherited it at one point, but I was young and stupid once so I digress. 

Did you have, or know anyone who had, grocery store china? I'd love to see a picture of it in the comments. Until then, have a great Friday!

-H.A. 


**If you're curious what the blue, odd-shaped item is, it's a wine cork that I bought at Bunratty Castle Folk Park, in County Clare, Ireland. It was made in a shop there, and I met the lady who made it. I also purchased a choker for myself and a pair of earrings for my daughter.




My latest book, The Box, is available through different retailers for $3.99! If you like short, campy, horror books, you will love The Box

Pick it up by following this link: The Box by H.A. Larson 

For information on my other books, link up to my Pronoun Author Page.




Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Sunset Stroll

As you will remember from my post the other day, I vowed to spend more time outside to acclimate myself to the warm weather. I love being outside in nature anyway, so this wasn't so much a big deal as it was a way of adjusting to the unavoidable heat. The other evening, then, I decided it would be nice to take an evening walk somewhere. The Teen was home as well (a rare occurrence these days as he has a job and a life), so the four of us drove up to Cunningham Lake to take a sunset stroll.

It was delicately gorgeous, and it reminded me of the simple yet complex beauty of nature. It also reminded me of a simple yet complex poem I read one time:


"Out over the ocean, and it’s waves it lay, 
A magnificent orange sphere, as it drops to the sea, 
With spears descending from within the fire, 
The magnificent beauty of the sunset each day, 

An immanent display, for the world to share, 
As it seeps below horizons, to end the day, 
Only to share light, so that others may see, 
The beauty of the sunset for all who care, 

Up above the clouds, that shadow the light, 
The rain, the snow, and the elements that blind, 
That magnificent glow, that Brightens our world, 
Another sunset awaits, just to share its light." 

- Sunset Poem by B.J. Ayers




There are few things more beautiful, in my opinion, than a lovely sunset over a lake. You can see the ripples on the water, made by a light breeze and the few people who were out on their boats.





The reflections of the docked boats are long, rippled, and lovely.





The sky was absolutely gorgeous as the Sun cast the last of its reddish light upon the horizon.





Nature Girl was thrilled to have her big brother along with us, and she stuck to him like glue the entire time. There's one big log accessible from the shore, and they spent a bit of time there.





The Teen plays in the water with a branch while Nature Girl looks on.


It was a lovely evening, and it was nice to spend time together, all four of us. Enjoy your day, we're halfway to the weekend.



My latest book, The Box, is available through different retailers for $3.99! If you like short, campy, horror books, you will love The Box

Pick it up by following this link: The Box by H.A. Larson 

For information on my other books, link up to my Pronoun Author Page.