Fortune Cookie Soap - Vivid

I recently got onto a bar soap kick when I realized I was sick of body wash, and that using a washcloth meant I got to make my own awesomely geeky ones (which last a lot longer than the poofs I've been using). I'd heard great things about Fortune Cookie Soap, and ordered some of their body butter (which they call Whipped Cream) in the fall. It was so amazing that I decided to do some matchy-matchy scents with my soap and body butter routine this Spring, so I picked out a couple of particularly fruity scents to try out. The first one I am trying out is Vivid.

SPARKLES! I might have been a little more than excited to see sparkles in my soap. I'd read that it was sparkly on the website, but seeing it is something totally different. Here is the website description:

Vivid is one of those scents you can't quite put your finger on … we made it that way on purpose! This fruity scent is jam-packed with peach smell paired with green apple – you want a cocktail? This little bar of soap will make you smell just like one and who can go wrong with that color? So come on – get a little vivid sparkle in your shower!

They're absolutely right. I find it very fruit-punch like. I adore it. And my shower always smells like it now. The soap lathers very nicely, and rinses cleanly. The sparkles are wonderful to look at on the soap, and they fortunately don't stick around on the skin. Why is that fortunate? Because I'm an actor, and sparkling onstage unintentionally is not cool, man.

I did get the matchy matchy whipped cream, called "That's what she said" (LOLOL):

From the website: Don't you just hate it when you use lotion on your hands and body and it leaves that oily residue behind? I certainly do! If I put lotion on my hands and go to open a door I can't because my hand keeps slipping on the knob! Agh! So that's why I created our line of whipped creams! It's so creamy and moisturizing, the skin just sucks it right up where there's nothing left behind to make you feel greasy! And since we're just nuts about Vivid we fragranced some with it too! You know you want to smell like fruit punch! 'Keep drinkin' the Kool-Aid.'

I already knew I liked their whipped creams. Check out this texture:

It feels like silk. Seriously. And they're right - it doesn't leave a greasy residue behind at all. A little goes a long way.

The price point on these, as far as handmade goods go, is really decent, and they often have sales. IN FACT, they are having a President's Day sale today, so if you happen to read this and head over to Fortune Cookie Soap, you can get 20% off today with the code PRESIDENT20.

Disclaimer: all items in this post were purchased by me. I am not being compensated for this review.

You'll find me everywhere, cuz I'm a Rover...

Despite having told myself I would stay in the same apartment through graduation, I found myself unable to deal with the extreme level of nonchalance my landlords gave to my well-being, as well as the frequent police visits to the buildings in my area. I decided another move was needed.

This year was my first year living completely by myself, and I loved it. I think, in fact, I loved it for all the wrong reasons. I loved it because no one cared if I was a slob. I loved it because I didn't have to answer to anyone for anything. I could let laundry, dishes, everything slide because no one else lived there. However, this also meant that I almost never had company, and spent much of my time here in solitude - not necessarily a bad thing.

Now that I've spent some time being by myself, I think I'm ready to take that next step. I am determined to be much more ruthless about the things I clear out of my life on this move in the hopes that I can condense my life to a small one-bedroom apartment that still has room for me to walk. I figure this will only make moving to wherever I end up after graduation easier. It also means that I can have company without being embarrassed about the state of my life.

But as the time draws near, I find myself alternating between states of elation and panic. When I go to my empty new apartment, I am filled with peace and hope. Then I think about the second bedroom in my current apartment that is entirely filled with the things that wouldn't fit anywhere else, and I panic. This will certainly be a process.

And yet, even as I panic, I know that staying here would have made my last year of graduate school miserable. The last thing I want to connect to my final year of this amazing experience is a miserable home life. It is time for me to organize my life. For me, this time.

The power of song

I'm very aural - as in, music and sound trigger things in me to a larger extent than other sensory experience. So when I am working creatively - acting, crafting, writing, whatever - music is my trigger. And it amazes me every time just how powerful that can be. Not only words, but the notes. My BA is in Musical Theatre, so I have a ton of soundtracks. The lyrics aren't always the most clever - see The Scarlet Pimpernel. But there is nothing like "Where's the Girl" for a sexy song because of the way the chords move through my ear holes.

Lately, thanks to seeing a production of Tom Stoppard's Rock N Roll, I've been in a big classic rock mood. I've been revisiting Jethro Tull and Bruce Springsteen the most, but I got into a Derek and the Dominos mood today. The original "Layla" is one of my favorite songs of all time. Is it because of the clever lyrics? No. It's because that famous guitar riff touches something inside of me that instantly recognizes the raw pain that the songwriter felt when writing it.

And then you have the deadly combo moves. Like the man, Bruce Springsteen. Poetry in every sense of the word.

Whatever happens to me psycho-physically when I hear music is something I don't quite understand, but something I am eternally grateful for. Because the inspiration it gives me is a great gift.

What about you? Any favorite songs for inspiration? That every time you hear them tug at your soul and make you pay attention to your own humanity?

Review: The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne

I've always enjoyed a good spy story, but I haven't, until now, read a really GOOD one. Joanna Bourne's The Forbidden Rose was everything I wanted in a spy novel, complete with romance - the kind that (as it does in war) blossoms unexpectedly and with a desperation that, at any moment, either party could be lost.

The Forbidden Rose takes place during the French Revolution, and Bourne does not shirk from showing the ugly side of the revolution - this is no over-romanticized France. It is a land torn by war and a population ruled by fear. Marguerite de Fleurignac is the leader of a group called La Flèche (The Arrow) which transports aristocrats out of the country and across the channel. William Doyle is a British spy who is looking for Maggie's father - apparently, he has a list of people that has served as a hit list, and there is a suspicion that her father is the one behind the assassinations. Things start to get complicated when Doyle stumbles on Maggie in the ruins of her sacked and looted home. Both are suspicious of each other, but they need each other. Doyle knows she is the daughter of the man she is looking for, and Maggie knows that she will get to Paris (where she is certain someone has betrayed La Flèche) more easily with Doyle to protect her. Along the way, of course, they fall in love, though both of them take their time coming to the realization that despite the danger, they will both risk their lives to stay together.

What I loved most about this book was that the danger was always very real. Doyle and Maggie both have honed skills - Maggie from leading La Flèche, and Doyle from his years of spying - but every time there was a situation, there was always a part of me that thought that they might not get out of it this time. I never had the sense that they were superhuman, which can be a problem in some spy romances. Bourne did an excellent job of showing the thought process for figuring out the solution, step by painful step, to each obstacle in their way. They were just really good at figuring out the puzzles.

The romance side was hot, though not particularly explicit. But throughout the intimate scenes, I felt the desperation for these two lovers - they might never see each other again, and that made the discovery of the other both precious and not. Special because it might be the last, but not too precious that they took time about it. They had no time to spare! These were the kinds of love scenes that reached into my heart and gave it a hard tug.

The side characters were all from different factions, and often clashed despite their connection to Maggie and Doyle. This painted a political landscape where you didn't know where your next enemy was going to come from, and I seriously spent nearly every scene wondering if the person they were speaking to was going to betray them. I never knew who was on their side with an absolute certainty. Hawker and Owl were particularly fabulous side characters, because they're so young. The ease with which Hawker performs certain tasks adds to the darkness of the book in ways that seeing an adult do the same things just cannot do. And seeing Doyle pass on his knowledge to Hawker helped to show us that these skills Doyle has come from a natural talent, but also YEARS of experience. Bourne throws in a lot of tips from Hawker's point of view (repeating in his mind things that Doyle has told him) that gave me a new perspective on scenes I'd already read.

I started this book on a whim at school on Thursday - purchasing it from the Kindle store despite agency pricing because I'd heard so many wonderful things about it. Today I sat down to read a few more chapters in my office and ended up staying two hours later than I'd planned to finish it. I could not put it down. Aside from the excellent world-building, the language itself - especially in Maggie's point of view - was lovely and poetic. Maggie sees the world through a lens of spinning a fantastic tale thanks to her hobby of making written records of local stories. That lens took a dark, dangerous world and gave it a beauty that gave me hope for their future.

This book is an EPIC WIN for me.

I often forget . . .

That this is a blog dedicated to more than just reading. I forget that I have a SLEW of hobbies, and that the purpose of this blog is to document my shifting obsessions. One of which is blogging. It's very meta.

New background! I thought I'd change it, since I'm no longer in London (sad) and it's no longer 2010. I'm afraid I have several half-thought out blog posts from London that aren't quite fleshed out. I may get to them. I want to get to them. But they just don't seem to be expressing themselves as well as I'd like.

Recently, I started a tumblr. Because I often have tiny things to post that don't warrant a full blog post, my Facebook friends get annoyed if I spam that page with links, and Twitter only has 140 characters. Just like I have an electronic device for every purpose, so do I have an internet home, hey?

The RWA RITAs are being announced. I've almost read half of the historical nominees, but only one of the regencies. This last year hasn't been the most excellent for my TBR pile.

My local Border's is closing. That makes me sad, but I will be trying out various other methods of getting my books. There is no romance-friendly local bookstore, though we do have a Barnes & Noble on the other side of town. I just don't really prefer B&N for my popular fiction needs. If it weren't for agency pricing, my Kindle would be a blessing at this point. But as it stands, on a grad student salary I have to wait until sales or coupons to buy books at all, so those agency priced books are usually a lost sale for me. On rare occasions will I pay full price.

That's all for now, but expect some catching up!

Library Book Sale - Fall 2010 Edition!

So last year, I ventured into my local library's book sale and came away with a nice little stack of books. My birthday was this week, so I had some spending money, and my list was not nearly as organized, so this time I came away with a HUGE BAG full of books!

Here, in no particular order, is my list for this trip:

The Return of Rafe MacKade by Nora Roberts - the original 1995 Silhouette printing.. which is why I couldn't resist it.

Wild Child and The China Bride by Mary Jo Putney - I already own these, but I know people who haven't read them, so now I have copies to lend out and/or give away.

Thunder and Roses by Mary Jo Putney - don't think I own this one.. I still have boxes of books to unpack from my move, so I may.. but hey, another give away copy, eh?

To Catch an Heiress by Julia Quinn - adding to my Quinn collection!

Someone to Watch Over Me by Lisa Kleypas - to add to my keeper shelf, because I loved this book.

Seduce me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas - which I THOUGHT was the first book in the trilogy, and isn't, and I didn't get the third which was RIGHT THERE because I thought I couldn't find the second.. so I'm all kinds of confused now. Has anyone read this trilogy? Should I wait and start with the first book..?

Cutting Loose by Susan Andersen - I bought the second book in the Sisterhood Diaries series before knowing there was a first book, and now I have both of them! Yay!

Proof by Seduction by Courtney Milan - this is a "lend out" copy because I have this book on my Kindle. And love it.

The Heart of Christmas with stories by Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick and Courtney Milan - I am saving this one for my trip to London for Christmas.

When the Duke Returns and A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James - I'm not a huge fan of the Desperate Duchesses series, but I love Eloisa's writing enough that she automatically goes on the keeper shelf. What can I say, I'm loyal to a fault.

Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney - I definitely know I don't have this one. :)

A Lady of Persuasion by Tessa Dare - my mom let me borrow her copies, and now I am starting my own Dare collection. Another author that automatically goes on my keeper shelf.

The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey - I love Lackey, and haven't read this one. We'll see!

Rhapsody by Elizabeth Haydon - if you haven't read this series, you need to. It's amazing. Epic fantasy FTW. This is replacing a copy I let a friend borrow that was never returned. I don't mind. :)

Four Complete Lord Peter Whimsey Novels by Dorothy Sayers - I owned no Whimsey novels but I LOVE THEM. At $1 for four, no way I could pass it up. :)

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell - it looks fascinating.

Once Upon a More Enlightened Time by James Finn Garner - you really have to read this in order to get it. Fairy Tales told from an extreme PC perspective. Hilarious!

Wicked French for the Traveler by Howard Tomb - I flipped through it and giggled all the way so it gets added to my coffee table books.

Me: Stories of My Life by Katherine Hepburn - my namesake. And now I own it. :)

*whew* Quite a list, eh? And I spent less than $15 for the lot! There are a few more, but they are presents and I'd hate to spoil the surprise. ;)

Anyone else love to dig through library book sales? I'm sure you do. My friends were there earlier than I was - when the sale first opened - and they said a bunch of people beelined for the romance. It made me smile. Have you ever had to fight for a good find?

The times, they are a-changin'

I ventured back onto Twitter yesterday for the first time in a while. One of the first tweets I read pointed me toward Marian Schembari's blog" where she described her horrendous experience getting into London. Read here: Part 1 and Part 2.

I have been to the United Kingdom several times before this trip, so I had an idea of what to expect going through customs. I had always traveled with my mother and her partner, who is a UK citizen, and we'd never had any issues getting into the country for holiday. This time, things just did not seem to be going my way. I hadn't managed to print out any of my itinerary or anything because I was having some serious printer issues (during finals week - no fun). I had all my confirmation numbers and dates and times written down in my travel journal, ready to go. When I got up to the customs window, the woman asked not only for my return ticket (which I didn't have because that would be silly to carry my return ticket around London for six weeks), but for the schedule for the Globe workshops we were attending. This was new to me. Part of my trip was for holiday with my family, and I had put their address on my form, and I told her who they were, so I thought I was set. Lesson one for international travelers: if you are traveling for any specific purpose, bring proof of that purpose with you in hard copy format. Those of you who read my Meredith Duran review might have noted that I left my packet of information in the US, so I had no proof. So she made me go back down to the United ticket counter to print my return itinerary and bring it back.

Fortunately, when I returned, there was a much nicer gentleman who helped me who asked me about my family, I told him, and he sent me on my merry way after seeing my return itinerary. Lesson two: bring proof of your return home. If you don't have a ticket yet to return home, as Marian's experience shows, it can bring all kinds of hell down on you. Even if you're American. Which leads to an even bigger lesson, and one that many people already know, but not all.

Don't assume that because you're an American, you will be treated like you are in America. Because you aren't. You are in someone else's home, and they are just as paranoid about immigrants stealing their jobs and terrorism as we are in America (I say this generally as I know not everyone agrees with these sentiments;- bear with me). After speaking to my London friends, I was informed that the British government has been super paranoid about everyone who comes across their borders lately, particularly since the 2005 bombings. I went in 2005 and 2007, but I was with family and was travelling through London for a short period of time. A woman travelling alone with no evidence about how long she's staying is suspect, even if she looks a perfectly nice girl who has no criminal record or anything. She could also be trying to sneak into the country to stay permenantly and try to work illegally - a major problem in the UK.

Gone are the days of spontaneous international adventures.

While I understand the desire to protect their country, Marian's account shows me how close I was from being a normal stuent/tourist to potential illegal immigrant/terrorist. The difference in treatment from one to the other is immense. There is no scale, you are good or bad. You are let go or you are imprisoned. You are waved through or you are iterrogated. There is no middle ground to work with. What infuriated me even more about Marian's account is the people she met who have no voice. No one interrogating them speaks their language, and they are unable to get in touch with anyone who can speak for them. Many of them were likely there to visit family. There are nationals of all varieties in London;- it is a wonderfully vibrant, diverse city. I would think it would be more efficient and make everyone's lives easier to have someone on staff who speaks some other languages besides English, don't you? This is common sense to me. If you are working an international terminal and running a detention facility that gets people coming through it of varying nationalities, finding some polyglots you can train certainly seems to be the way to go. There is a whole debate in this midst about what the British government calls 'value for money', which my London friends will rant about for days. I am not educated enough of the issue to make a statement about that here, but I can say that it seems awfully silly to me to yell at your prisoners instead of teaching your guards to speak Nigerian.

The other thing that scares me is that I know this happens in our country as well. Having friends and family who do come visit me from the UK, I have become extremely paranoid about them coming to visit me. Fortunately, they speak English. But what about friends of mine with relatives in other, non-English speaking countries? I know that one of my London friends has had an experience in the US with getting interrogated because he was flying inside the US by himself and was flying out from a different place than he was flying in.

I suppose the lesson is, be fully prepared with all the details of your trip and be ready to answer any questions about where you will be and when. But the lesson for me is, look more closely at what is going on in your own backyard. Because it is awfully difficult to criticize another country and their methods when you're not even sure what happens at home.

It saddens me that in today's world, which is increasingly international, we feel the need for all this security between citizens of various nations. Is this going to improve our way of life, or is this going to create more incidents like Marian's, only for people who have no voice?

Anyone with any advice, links, etc, feel free to post them here. This post turned into a bit of an angry diatribe, but it was intended to start a conversation. We need to have this conversation.