Crystal Ball: Annual Fancy Nerdfest

For the last four years or so, I’ve been part of this fantastically nerdy group here in Ohio: hp-Ohio, which is a meetup group for adult Harry Potter fans located in and around Ohio.  And while we have many gatherings that happen on an annual basis (BAMFmas in July to celebrate Harry’s and Neville’s birthdays, a Valentine’s tea party in February, a Halloween party each October, and a New Year’s Eve lunch wherein we all wear Weasley-style sweaters), one of my favorites is the Crystal Ball.

Photo Credit: Crystal Quesnelle


The Crystal Ball is hp-Ohio’s Yule Ball, and it takes place in January at the lovely Landoll’s Mohican Castle in Loudonville, Ohio.  We get all dressed up, have a fancy night, and, of course, nerd it out.  We basically take over the castle for the weekend, many of us stay in the hotel rooms available there, and we have a grand old time with a bunch of other Harry Potter fans.

Landoll’s Mohican Castle


This year was my fifth Crystal Ball (what?!) and it was the fourth time I’ve convinced my husband to come along.  This year was also the tenth Crystal Ball that has taken place at Landoll’s Mohican Castle, so it was even more of a celebration than usual, complete with a “memory museum” that featured pictures and memorabilia from each of the past Crystal Balls.

The entrance to the “memory museum”


A display of various banners hp-Ohio has used throughout the history of the Crystal Ball


This beautiful mural was made by my friend and fellow hp-Ohio member, Alicia Wilson


Without a doubt, Crystal Ball is one of my favorite ways to start a new year.  There’s nothing better than spending a weekend with some great friends, nerding out and being fancy!

Photo Credit: Crystal Quesnelle


Sparkly-Shiny Christmas

I love Christmas.  It’s my favorite holiday, and has been for as long as I can remember.  I love the child-like wonder.  I love the Christmas trees and other decorations.  I love family traditions — and seeing extended family that we don’t get to see very often.  And I love, LOVE, the Christmas lights.

Basically, I become a child.

In fact, I love the Christmas lights so much that I’m pretty sure my husband is a little nervous to see what’s going to happen to our house (when we finally have a house) the first Christmas we’re there.

So it’s no wonder that I absolutely love going over to the Columbus Zoo to see their “Wildlights” about this time every year.  My husband and I even had our engagement photos taken at the Wildlights last year!

Last Friday, we made our annual trip to the Columbus Zoo (all of five minutes away) to see the Wildlights.  Of course, it’s been freakishly warm here the last few weeks, so it seemed like everyone else in the city had the same idea (we found out later that we picked a good night — Saturday and Sunday were so packed that it was taking people hours to travel just a few miles).

It was a beautiful night, and it was so much fun to see all the lights.  Here are just a few pictures that I took that night!


My husband (Alan) and me






And my favorite picture I took…


What are some of your favorite things to do around the winter holiday season?  Do you have a lights display that you absolutely have to see?

Love of the Week: Gum

A certain friend of mine has taken it upon herself to relentlessly quote my previously “most recent” blog post at me until I post a new one. So here’s a new one. And now she can stop.

Yes, I’m aware that I keep saying that I’m going to blog more regularly. That darn thing called life keeps getting in the way. As does a multitude of other stuff, including but not limited to my TBR pile, MiMC, e-mail insanity, HPA, alumni bands, car drama, schizophrenic internet, writing a synopsis, getting ready to start querying this novel, and general exhaustion.


So here’s a new Love of the Week post. It’s lame. And for that, I apologize.

I love me some sugarfree gum, particularly as of late. In particular, I’ve grown kind of addicted to Extra Dessert Delights.

Here’s the thing: A couple of years ago, I lost a ton of weight. During that time, I chewed a lot of sugarfree gum. I’m on a diet again, to lose some of the weight I gained over the summer, and it’s become a lifeline. It keeps me from the vending machine and snacks at work. I’ve gotten some flack from co-workers who have seen my “gum drawer” (I tend to stock up), but the thing is…it works for me. And I need a variety of gum in order to keep my sweet tooth under control, otherwise I start craving things like chocolate. It also comes in handy once NaNoWriMo starts, to keep me away from the snacks during that stressful time too.

So, yes, sugarfree gum is my love of the week.

Love of the Week: Fall TV Season

I have a somewhat pathetic addiction to television. I almost always have it on, even in the background, and I religiously follow a number of shows. Which means this week, I’m going to be in TV heaven as almost ALL of my shows come back (some start next week). It’s going to be interesting, though. Having just moved in with two of my friends, we’re trying to figure out how to balance the TV/DVR schedules, so none of us miss the shows we NEED to see. But it sounds like it’s all going to work out fine, between a DVR and me having a DVD recorder…so. My love of the week for this week is the fall TV season!

Some of the shows I follow and am VERY excited to return:

Castle– I always watch it right after dance class, usually while getting some much-needed writing or some other project done. It came back tonight. And, boy, did it deliver. I was looking forward to tonight’s premiere, because the finale left us in a Lost-style cliffhanger that was driving me ABSOLUTELY NUTS since May. Thank you, Castle. I thought I’d gotten past all that when Lost ended.

Biggest Loser– I’m big on Biggest Loser…and I haven’t always been quite THIS into it. But a couple of years ago, when I was first starting the liquid diet I was on, I started my diet right around the same time that Biggest Loser came back. And that helped me through, losing weight with the contestants. Now I still love it just as much…it’s a helpful reminder to keep the weight OFF. And I love the drama. Ya know.

Glee– I’m a Gleek. I admit it. And I have the hots for Darren Criss, who’s signed on as a series regular this year. I shall be in heaven. (Really, I’m not super-emotionally-invested in Glee, I just think it’s fun. And, you know. Darren Criss. HE is enough to watch Glee FOREVER.)

NCIS– This is a new thing for me. I’ve never actually watched a season of NCIS AS IT AIRS. I got into the show sometime last year, when USA was running one of their many NCIS marathons. My friend/roommate Tracy talks about it all the time and told me I HAD to watch it, so I gave in and gave it a chance one weekend. And I was hooked. Then this summer, I stocked up on all the seasons on DVD and caught up in chronological order. Then Tracy and I got our third roommate (Kathleen) addicted too. I’m excited to watch it as it airs for the first time.

Grey’s Anatomy– I’ve been really into this show since about season two. It’s going to be strange this season, though, because for the last two years, I’ve watched each new episode with my mom after bell choir rehearsal. Now I don’t live with my parents anymore. Fortunately, my roommate Kathleen is into the show as well, so I’ll have at least one person to watch it with.

Private Practice– I think this actually comes back next week, but regardless. I’m not quite as invested in this one as I am in Grey’s, but I still enjoy it.

Sister Wives– Yeah, I know. BUT LISTEN. This show isn’t like all the other nutty-huge-family shows TLC has (which I REFUSE TO WATCH, by the way…on principle that Kate was a freaking nutjob and I find the Duggars to be preachy and obnoxious). This show actually shows a completely different lifestyle…a completely different style of huge family. This isn’t just a couple of people who have overdone the having-kids thing. This is a very non-traditional family composed of several parents raising many kids. And it’s absolutely fascinating. (That, and the marriage equality advocate in me can’t stand the fact that polygamy is such a “thing.” I’m interested to see how the Brown family’s lawsuit of Utah goes.)

Storm Chasers– I don’t even know the rationale behind this one. I’m terrified of thunder storms and tornadoes and the like. But this show always has me riveted, regardless of the fact that about 95% of the cast is downright annoying.

So, there we go. The shows I’m excited to see return to the airwaves. What shows are you most excited for?

Love of the Week Returns!

And now I’m back on the blogging train! Hooray!

This week’s love of the week was hard for me to figure out. I knew what I wanted to talk about, but…it’s more than just one thing. So I’m going to try to use the broadest phrasing I can possibly use, in the hopes that that will encompass all that I want it to.

The Potter Fandom.

Yes, I know. First of all, I’ve done nothing but talk about Harry Potter on here for weeks. You’re probably all sick of it. And second of all, I couldn’t get broader unless I tried to say fandoms in general.

BUT IT WORKS. I PROMISE. Hold your hippogriffs, and I’ll explain.

There’s something (no pun intended) magical about the Potter fandom in particular. It’s a level of love and support and encouragement that I’ve never seen in any other fandom, and I’ve been in several. The Potter fandom is more accepting than other fandoms, seems less likely to judge, and we can bond together in two seconds. We like doing things like, say, staying up all night together just to answer one strange trivia question…and then we help each other to succeed.

More explanation? Really? Okay.

Background: Two weeks ago, while the rest of the Harry Potter Alliance staff was down in Orlando for LeakyCon, those of us left behind ran a thing we called Portkey. It was an online conference of sorts, for all those who hadn’t been able to go to Leaky. We had trivia contests and shared memories of the fandom and did garbage bag experiments and watched documentaries and geeked out together after the midnight premiere of Deathly Hallows Part 2.

And we Livestreamed. A lot.

I was the Gryffindor Head of House for the Portkey house cup. By virtue of that, I was expected to be on most of the Livestreams. I was fine with that. And by the end of the week, there was this core group of Portkey staffers who were on almost all the Livestreams and had, somehow, become the faces of Portkey itself. We don’t know how that happened, but it did. Becca, Devyn, Quinn, Dani, Shrima, Kara, Alex, and I talked more that week, through Skype and on Livestreams, than we had previously. And something crazy happened…apparently our audiences in the Livestream found us funny. They told us they wanted us to stick around. Yeah, it was a strange realization for the rest of us too.

Fast forward to this past weekend. Saturday night. Becca, Devyn, Quinn, Dani, Shrima, Kara, Alex, and I had joked about staying up all Saturday night together on Skype to get the Pottermore Beta clue that was supposed to come out sometime July 31. We all got on Skype Saturday evening. Started talking. And then this weird thing happened. Becca got us our own Livestream channel. We posted something on our old Portkey Facebook page. By 8:30pm EST, we were broadcasting live on our shiny new channel, planning on staying up all night and entertain ourselves by running our mouths. Our channel being new, we weren’t “verified,” so we couldn’t have more than 50 people listening to us at one time. This was fine, because we figured we wouldn’t get more than ten or fifteen people who would want to listen to us be weird.

Oh, how wrong we were.

We hit our 50-person cap two hours in. According to our Livestream chat numbers, there were another 60 or 70 people just hanging out in the chat, unable to listen, getting information relayed to them through other listeners. Three hours later, we had the same number of listeners. It was the same four hours later.

Our numbers held strong for at least ten straight hours of Livestreaming. We talked about everything and anything. We talked Potter, and inside jokes, and Pottermore, and speculation. We announced rumors about the clue as we heard them. We counted down to 3am EST, which was when we heard the clue would come out.

And at 3:30am EST, the first Pottermore clue of seven that will be opened this week appeared on the site. Together, my fellow Portkey hosts and I freaked out. With the help of the chat, we figured out the clue, we went to the site. We found the Magic Quill. And then we all registered. Technical difficulties put a damper on some of us, that the others took time to help us through. We shared usernames and laughed and had a blast and freaked out about getting into Beta, even if we haven’t been allowed to start playing yet.

Here was the amazing part. Some people didn’t get through the first day. They have the rest of the week’s worth of clues to try. And instead of pointing and laughing or saying “sorry, sucks for you” or basking in the glory of getting into Pottermore Beta when others didn’t…the Potter Fandom has been collectively helping each other. We’ve been cheering each other on, and letting each other know when the clues come out. We’ve been helping each other register and get the chance to join Pottermore early.

This is the kind of fandom that we are. We celebrate our individual successes, and then we turn back and help our friends. We’re the kind of fandom that stays up all night together, on a Livestream, listening to hilarious fan fiction about the Portkey hosts and making goofy inside jokes like “Snugglemore.” We’re the kind of fandom that can crash entire fan sites because of one announcement, who keeps each other in the loop even when we’ve been sworn to secrecy. We only half-joke about wearing our wizard or Death Eater robes on airplanes. We celebrate the birthdays of the author and characters that we love. We’re activists who fight real-world Horcruxes. We can speculate with the best of them, solve clues like you wouldn’t believe, and when we want to succeed, there’s nothing that will stop us.

This is why I love this fandom.

Love of the Week: Accio Books!

So this week’s love is slightly shameless, seeing as how I’m a staffer for the HPA (Harry Potter Alliance).

This is the last week of HPA’s annual Accio Books! campaign. The short version of it is that Accio Books! is a book drive. This year we’re being super epic and actually building a library for the Bedford-Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School. The school opened in September 2010, but they sadly have no library.


So that’s what we’re doing. People are collecting books of all kinds for a K-5 school library. Non-fiction, fiction, picture books, novels. If you can think of it, these kids need it.

And, yeah, this is the last week to send in books that will count for points here. But that’s still a WHOLE WEEK when you can mail books to the school! Then just make sure you go enter your donations so your points can count for the house of your choice in the house cup competition. I’ve been giving my points to Gryffindor!

Love of the Week: Peeps

What with Easter coming up this weekend, it seemed appropriate for me to have this week’s love be something Easter-related.

Like candy.

My favorite Easter candy has always been Peeps. Sugar-covered marshmallows are just a win anyway, but then when they’re in cute shapes, I don’t see how you can lose.

Plus…they’re really fun to put in the microwave!

Take 2: A New Schedule…Starting with LOVE OF THE WEEK

You know, I feel like I say this a lot…but I have really been failing at posting on here. Shame on me.

I got to thinking about this over the last few weeks and I realized that really the only time I’ve posted on here regularly, and not failed, was when I did the Thirty Letters, Thirty Days exercise.

So this leads me to…I’m creating a schedule for myself. Maybe if I have a specific topic to post on Mondays-Fridays, I’ll actually…oh, I don’t know…post. Not everything is going to be writing-related. In fact, as I have the schedule now, only two days a week will be related to what’s going on in my writing life. Which I think will be good, especially since I now post over at Fiction Flurry, which is the blog for the writers group I’ve been active in over the last few months.

So this is the inaugural post of my shiny new schedule. Hopefully this works out well for everyone, because I really do want to post on here more regularly.


It was going to be “Obsession of the Week,” but somehow that sounded…I don’t know…too intense? Because some things I love I’m not obsessed with. This week’s love I am, but that doesn’t mean it’ll hold true other weeks.

Why did I choose Love of the Week for Monday? Mostly because I despise Mondays. They make me tired and upset and, on rainy Mondays like today, not very much of a people person. The only redeeming quality of Monday is that I have dance class in the evenings. And Castle‘s on. That’s it. Other than that…nope, I hate Mondays. So, with that, I give you the very first Love of the Week. And it’s…



That’s right. I’ve gotten into wizard rock. I partly blame this on my being a Harry Potter Alliance staffer and I also partly blame it on my horrible habit of randomly surfing through YouTube. Whatever you want to point fingers at, I found a couple videos of this band on YouTube and watched them.

I fell in love.

I bought and downloaded three of their albums from iTunes.

I’ve pretty much spent the last few working days listening to MoM music. Mostly because it makes me happy, keeps me awake, and allows me to tune out whatever’s going on around me that I don’t want to listen to. And if that’s not the mark of awesome music, then I don’t know what is.