Bonus Blog

Eowyn Challenge Update

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

I made it to Rivendell! And I met my goal to get there by the end of 2016. The next leg of the journey will take me to Lothlorien, and I’m planning on traveling those 462 miles by the end of 2017. I’m already 120 miles there!

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This view took my breath away! (Or was that from running up the hill to see it?)

If you’re not familiar with the Eowyn Challenge, it was created over a decade ago around the time when the LOTR trilogy was in theaters. Essentially, it’s meant to motivate people to get out and exercise in some form that can be tracked by distance (i.e. running, walking, hiking, biking, swimming).

Last year, I hardly did any running, but I still made it to Rivendell with a few days to spare. I accumulated a lot of miles by just walking around campus going to class. This year I’ve already done more running than I did in all of 2016! Fingers crossed that I might make it to Lothlorien well before December 31.

I’m trying to take running a little less seriously than I did last year because I think that was the majority of the problem. Last year I kept trying to increase mileage and quickly came to the conclusion that I simply didn’t have time to run. This year, I’m trying to tell myself that even if I get out there and run for 15-20 minutes, it’s better than not running at all. And let’s be real, starting out with 15-20 minutes every few days sounds a lot more manageable than starting with 5-6 miles a week.

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And to reiterate Bilbo’s advice, it is a dangerous business. Especially when you realize that Starbucks isn’t that far away and the idea of a literal Starbucks run pops into your head. Let me tell you if you can end your run with Starbucks, you will be amazed at how fast you can run. I do believe this will be quite dangerous for my wallet.

Bonus Blog · Books and Beverages

More Gadgets for Your Books and Beverages!

I did another gadget post like this one over a year ago, and in that time I’ve discovered a few more awesome things that I think book and beverage lovers will enjoy as much as I do.

Tea and Books Mug

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I found this mug from the Etsy shop, Lenny Mud. They also have a website. It looks like this mug isn’t available anymore, but they do have another really cute reading mug.

This mug is perfect for Books and Beverages and I had to have it. There are so many cute details included on the mug like it’s an actual book. The handle looks like pages and the opposite side looks like a spine. It’s so adorable!

Electric Kettle / Hot Pot

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When I’m too lazy to venture to the kitchen, or when I don’t want to wake everyone up with a kettle whistling, my electric kettle comes to the rescue. When I was living in the dorms I also used it to cook box mac and cheese and soup, so it’s really a versatile little device.

Amazon has a similar one here. (Gotta love Amazon!)

Kindle

I bought myself a Kindle before I went to Japan. I thought I would never use an e-reader, but I’m really glad I got my Kindle. It was so handy to have on the long airplane rides to and from Japan, and it was also great on the trains. It’s really lightweight and I could check out e-books from the library so that I didn’t have to buy or bring any books on the trip. My Kindle isn’t backlit, so it was a good thing I had my handy dandy reading light.

Additionally, since I moved I don’t have access to as nice of a library system, but I can still get e-books from it. Although nothing beats a physical book with pages, the Kindle sure has its advantages.

Bonus Blog

Run Like A Nerd

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Source

I haven’t gone on a single run since I set my goal to run 300 miles this year, so I figured I could use some incentive. I tried this challenge last spring, but found it a little daunting. It’s called the Éowyn Challenge, and it gets its name from one of my favorite LOTR characters.

The idea is to track your mileage with whatever activity you can do so with, be it running, walking, hiking, swimming, biking, etc. (No, driving your car doesn’t count.) Through this journey, you can break free of your cage or whatever situation you feel trapped in. The challenge started over a decade ago, but you can do it any time you like.

It originally began with the journey from Bag End to Rivendell from The Fellowship of the Ring. Of course, the journey doesn’t end at Rivendell, so there are over a dozen different paths you can follow, including ones from The Hobbit. And there are mileage charts so you can keep track of where you are in Middle Earth.

Basically, it’s a fun way to relive the events and journey of LOTR through fitness. I’m planning to make it from Bag End to Rivendell by the end of the year, a total of 458 miles. At least 300 of those will be running, which leaves me 158 to accomplish by walking, hiking, whatever. It seems pretty reasonable to me.

I’m excited to see where this journey will leave me at the end of the year. I’d be flattered if anyone joins me and would dub you my honorary Sam Gamgee.

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Now, one can simply walk into Mordor!  (Source)
Bonus Blog

2016 Goals

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Happy 2016!

It’s hard to believe that it’s the last day of 2015. So many unexpected twists came my way, some good, some bad, and this blog happened to be one of them. (Don’t worry, it was one of the good twists.) I want to look back on 2016 in a similar way, so that’s why I’ve decided to set some New Year’s resolutions/goals. You, my readers, will help keep me accountable.

Blog Goals

I want to have better quality posts for 2016, and I think that starts with not procrastinating. To force me to write posts sooner and have more time to revise them, all posts will go up at noon Pacific Time (3 pm Eastern Time) on their respective days.

I’ve noticed that jewelry tutorial posts are pretty popular, so for 2016 I’d like to have more of them. Every third Tuesday, I will publish a new jewelry tutorial post.

I’ve also noticed that my Pintertest series is lacking a bit, so every second Friday, I will publish a new Pintertest post.

Other Goals

In 2015, I read 24 books, or an average of two a month. For Goodreads’ 2016 Reading Challenge, I’m planning to set a goal of 36 books, or an average of three a month. That way, there will be about three books in each of my Books and Beverages posts.

I’m also planning to get back into running, and I’ve set a goal of 300 miles for 2016. Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in some occasional running bonus blogs!

Yellow Raspberry Jewelry is in need of a larger inventory, so my goal is to create and list one new item each week. I also want to re-photograph most of the current items, so I’ll plan to do two of those each week.

It looks like I’ve got my year cut out for me! I’m planning to stay on track with the help of Habitica (formerly HabitRPG), which is an app that helps keep you motivated to do things. I’ve been using it since 2014, and it turns your life into a role playing game where you earn coins by checking off tasks. With the coins, you can buy things for your avatar, or rewards for yourself in real life, like cookies. It basically turns that boring to-do list into a fun game.

What kind of goals or resolutions are you setting for 2016?

Bonus Blog · Books and Beverages

Gadgets for Books and Beverages

LED Reading Light and Tea Buddy

I wanted to lump these in with my last Books and Beverages post, but it would have made it a bit too long. So here they are in their own little bonus blog.

LED Reading Light (Mighty Bright XtraFlex2 Light)

I bought this for my trip to Hawaii, in case I wanted to read at night while my friend slept in the same room so that I wouldn’t keep her up with a bright light. It worked out well, and I even use it at home in the hopes that less light won’t prevent me from sleeping (melatonin and all that). The light has three settings, bright, less bright, and off. The less bright setting is still pretty bright, but doesn’t use up the battery as quickly.You can even buy an adapter separately if you don’t like using batteries. To use the light, you clamp it down to a bunch of pages, or the back cover for hardback books. It doesn’t mar the pages and stretches far enough up that it doesn’t get in the way of page flipping. I really like it and it can also serve as a flashlight. It’s pretty compact and can even stand on its own. Makes a great gift for book lovers and I think it would be great for in a dorm room. It comes in several different colors.

Tea Bag Buddy (Primula Tea Bag Buddy)

This thing is great. I use it mostly to put on top of my mug so that my tea doesn’t go cold as quickly. (So when I get distracted by a good book, my tea is still fairly warm.) It’s also great for holding the tea bag string so that it won’t drip tea down the side of the mug while steeping. On the packaging it shows that you can also use it to squeeze the last drop out of the tea bag, and as a place to set your tea bag down. It comes in pink, green, and white and is made from silicone. It’s pretty great, and I’ve had mine for over a year, so it’s pretty long-lasting too. And it’s easy to clean; you just need to give it a good rinse. It works best with tea bags with strings, but can still be used to keep your tea warm with string-less bags and loose leaf teas. Great for tea lovers.

Bonus Blog · Books and Beverages

Books and Beverages (#3)

I didn’t read as many books this month as I did in March or April. The three books in total came out to about 1,129 pages, so not a bad month reading wise. One was a fantasy, one a murder mystery thriller, and the other a young adult alternative history. Overall, a very diverse month.

Books

The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
“A book with more than 500 pages”
Originally, The Lord of the Rings was the trilogy I was planning to read for the Popsugar challenge. Then I read the note on the text at the beginning in which it says that The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy, but one big novel sometimes published as three separate volumes. (The movies, however, are a trilogy.) For accuracy’s sake, I decided to change it from the trilogy to the book with more than 500 words. Anyway, I really loved this book (meaning The Return of the King). There’s bromance and romance, but it adds to everything and makes you feel happy, and not at all a waste of words. A few times I had to set it down because I was scared of what would happen next, but I needed to know, so I had to keep reading for hope that it would be okay. Surprising twists caught me off guard several times and I was glad I hadn’t seen the movies yet because I think they would have ruined that initial surprise that wasn’t quite the same in film. There was only one loose end that didn’t get tied up, but Tolkien did that on purpose, and leaves it up to the reader’s imagination. Also, I cried at the end of the book. I didn’t find the ending itself to be intensely tear-jerking, but I think I cried mostly due to the fact that it was over. And I didn’t want it to end the way that it did, but it made sense. I think that’s all I can say without spoiling everything if you haven’t read the book or seen the movies. Overall, The Lord of the Rings is one of those books that helped me get through a bit of a rough patch. The best books are those whose meaning goes beyond the pages, and The Lord of the Rings certainly belongs in that category. Tolkien sprinkled little nuggets of wisdom throughout the book that everyone can benefit from reading.

Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs
“A book based on or turned into a TV show”
This is the first book in the saga surrounding the life and work of forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. They turned this into the TV show Bones, which is just finishing up its tenth season. I like the show better than the book, to be honest. This book reminded me a lot of the show Agent Carter in that the protagonist is a female trying to gain respect in a male-dominated profession. Brennan is convinced there’s a serial killer on the loose, but she doesn’t have enough evidence to convince the Montreal police, which is where the book is set. One scene in the book is a two-page dialogue about saws and how different strokes and types of saws leave certain marks on bones. Another two-page scene, the reader gets an in depth explanation on how Brennan photoshopped a picture to see more clearly a dental impression in a piece of cheese. If you’re really into forensics, you’ll probably find this interesting, but I thought it was a bit out of place in a novel. It does makes sense that Reichs chose to include these lengthy descriptions since she herself is a forensic anthropologist. The book was relatively entertaining, however, and did have a few shocking twists and turns. I also find the title to be very appropriate and clever. Deja Dead makes you think that there is recurring death, which ties in with the serial killer aspect. It translates into “Already Dead,” which ties in with the sad reality that while family and friends were looking for their lost loved ones, they were already dead.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
“A book set in a different country”
I’m pretty sure this is the first alternative history I’ve read. It takes place in England, Austria, and Switzerland at the beginning of World War I. It follows two characters, Alek and Deryn. Alek is Archduke Ferdinand’s son who flees his home after his parents are assassinated. Deryn is a girl who disguises herself as a boy to join the British navy. Anyone allied with Germany is called a “Clanker,” referring to their prowess with machinery and mechanical engineering. They have created large war machines that walk on two legs. The British, on the other hand, are called Darwinists for their prowess with biological engineering and creating living, flying war beasts that are their own ecosystems. The sequence of historical events is the same as occurred in real life, but the weapons are far more advanced than even anything that is now considered modern. It seemed to me that this book was more like the first half of a book as opposed to a whole book. It just felt really short.

Beverages

Tazo Organic Baked Cinnamon Apple Rooibos Tea
I don’t think I’ve ever had an organic tea before, and this one is delicious. The rooibos gives it a vanilla-y taste, so it’s like you’re drinking liquid apple pie a la mode. It pairs nicely with a good book.

Crystal Light Lemonade Mix
Lately it’s been pretty warm, so I’ve turned to lemonade to quench my thirst. This stuff really hits the spot and is less than 10 calories per packet. It’s great having a deliciously flavored beverage that you don’t feel guilty about afterward. And you don’t have to make gallons of it at a time like other lemonade mixes. It’s great on sunny days spent outside reading a good book.

I don’t know about you, but May went by really fast. In only two days it’ll be June already. If you’re curious to see what I’m currently reading, check out the sidebar and/or friend me on Goodreads. Also, follow me or come back on June 27 for the next Books and Beverages post!

Bonus Blog

Why Selling Jewelry on Etsy is Hard

Etsy has been in the news a lot lately, so I thought I’d jump on this bandwagon and offer my two cents. If you aren’t familiar with Etsy, it is a large online marketplace for people to buy and sell handmade and vintage goods. I was once a seller and struggled to sell anything. From the six months my store was up, I learned a lot about Etsy and other sellers. Here’s a few of the things that I picked up.

  • Etsy’s jewelry market is heavily saturated. It’s difficult for customers to find your bracelet out of thousands, and given that there are so many to choose from, odds are yours won’t be purchased. There’s also a lot of shops out there claiming their jewelry is handmade when it clearly isn’t and the exact same item is in another shop as well. (Here’s a necklace in one shop, and another shop is selling an exact replica.)
  • There are a lot of counterfeiters on the site. I consider counterfeiting to cover a range of unfair practices. Claiming your goods are handmade when they’re actually mass manufactured. Using copyrighted or trademarked images or names (TV shows, movies, sports teams, etc.). Other sellers do it all the time, but that doesn’t give you permission to do so. Come up with some creative innuendo that won’t get you in trouble.
  • It takes a long time to gain momentum. If you want to jump-start your success, open up shop a couple months before the big holiday buying season. Hopefully before it comes around you’ll have made some sales and gotten some good reviews. Then when site traffic is up for the holidays, potential buyers will see your store and the good reviews and be more inclined to make a purchase. Treat your customers nice and they may turn into repeat customers. Remember that you probably won’t become an overnight success, but keep at it.
  • Most customers are looking for custom made-to-order. When someone buys something on Etsy, they’re okay with the fact that it might take a little more time for their item to be shipped. It’s worth the wait to have something unique made. This is why a lot of the successful jewelry shops offer different color and size options.

Selling jewelry online can be tough, but it can also be very rewarding. While Etsy is big and brings in more traffic than other online handmade marketplaces, its size makes it harder to crack down on counterfeiters and easier for new shops to get lost in all the noise. Note that these were only a few of the reasons that I decided to stop selling on Etsy. There were some other things that made it difficult and I wasn’t willing to take the time or effort to work them out.

Amazon has recently announced that they’re going to get into the online handmade business. I’m very interested in seeing how it compares with Etsy in terms of listing and commission fees, but I probably wouldn’t open up shop until it’s been around a few months. That way they can work out all the kinks.