Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Post Round-Up

Whew! I didn't realize it until I started going through my old posts, but 2015 was a big year on this blog! So of course, I thought I'd round up a few of my favorite posts and share them with you here. I love going back and looking through my blog like this. It's so affirming. Like, yeah,  I have days where I feel like nothing is going right, where I haven't gotten anything done, or that I have no control in what's going on. So posts like this are reminders to myself that my life is constantly changing for the better.

In January I finally found the time to post all about my wedding! It was a huge series of posts, which can all be found under the tag wedding stuff.

I guess all that wedding talk left me in a romantic mood, because I had not one but two diys for Valentines Day! The date night printables are a super easy gift. And my punny Kenetic Sand gifts were a hit at work.

In March I shared where we went on our honeymoon, and the honeymoon mini scrapbook I made!

 In May I started my new INVITES + INSPIRATION series, which I've had a lot of fun creating! I loved my cookie bake-off invite, because it's so colorful and fun. And my girl's night flower invite makes me smile every time I see it.

In September I started my healthy lifestyle series. I also shared my library's big summer event: HPLD Nerd Con! I created a star-gazing party invite, full of colors that I love. And last but not least, I shared my living room space and all of the hard work it took to get it to where it is now!

In October I finished out my healthy lifestyle goals, and I wrote a post about our library's dystopian event. That event is one of my favorite teen events we've ever had at the library!


In November I shared a fun set of Thanksgiving printables. I also talked all about my adventures in England, including Bath, London, and the Harry Potter Studios!

December was super busy for me, but I had time to start my Harry Potter challenge! Also (and I didn't share this on the blog) I was able to try something I've wanted to do for a long time, and that's streaming on Twitch! If you're into watching people play video games, checkout my channel at twitch.tv/giasaur!

So, that's my year! I wasn't lying when I said that there was a ton of things. Ever year is more and more exciting, and I can't wait to see what 2016 has in store!

And if you'd like to see my past round up posts, you can check them out here:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

inspire me: Bobbie Burgers

Large canvases full blooms that are expressed with beautiful colors and wonderful texture. That's the work of Bobbie Burgers. I love how brushstrokes can be used in a way that looks "careless" but still creates the idea of an object... in this case, petals. And drips! Drips are some of my favorite things. I love art that knows it's a messy hobby.


Oh, and while I'm talking about Bobbie's take-your-breath-away florals, I should also point out that she makes sculptures as well. The ceramic piece below turned my like into love.




Bobbie's Links:


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Harry Potter Read-A-Thon


So every year, without fail, the first snowflake falls and I'm instantly transported to that magical world created by J.K. Rowling, staring at the ceiling of the great hall, or hearing the armor sing Christmas carols. I know I'm not the only one (especially judging by how many times Harry Potter is on TV during this season), so I thought I'd have a little fun with it.

So I'm officially inviting you to my blog's Harry Potter Read-A-Thon! 

I challenge you to get lost in the world of Harry Potter sometime in the next three months, and of course I will be joining you! For every book you read from the Harry Potter series, I will give you some digital freebies (a wallpaper, an illustration, or maybe something even cooler). If you finish all seven books you'll receive a physical prize!

So read them by yourself or with your kids, or listen to them while you clean or in the car. I don't care how you do it, just immerse yourself in the wizarding world somehow. Then shoot me an email at how.not.to.be.a.zombie @ gmail telling me what your favorite part of the book was, and I'll send you some free digital goodies. Once you've finished all seven books let me know, and I'll send you a free goodie back packed with stickers and other prizes!

If you want to enhance your reading experience, try pairing it with Pottermore, the official Harry Potter companion on the internet.

You can also pretend that you're reading in your favorite common room, with the help of this audio atmosphere list.

And yes, if you've already read the books I expect you to re-read them to get the freebies. This challenge is all about getting lost in the world! Also, if you have only watched the movies, I urge you to give the books a try. They are fantastic, and I promise that when you are done you'll love the series more.

I hope to you enjoy this challenge as much as I do!



This blog and it's contents are not affiliated 
with Warner Brothers, Scholastic, or J.K. Rowling.

Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter characters, names and related indicia 
are trademarks of and © Warner Bros.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Adventures in England: Harry Potter!

You thought we were done with England posts? You didn't honestly think I'd go to England without visiting some Harry Potter sites, did you? Because that would be silly. Some people can't go to places without visiting the best malls, or the prettiest gardens. Me? Well, my interests are a bit less... muggle.

As you've probably guessed if you're an HP fan, we went to the end-all-be-all of Harry Potter destinations: the Warner Brother's Harry Potter set tour, and I was either speechless or squeeling the whole time. I'm actually going to apologize right now, because post is super-loaded with pictures. Like... TOO MANY. But how could I resist? It was all too... dare I say it... magical.







Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Adventures in England: London!

We saved the last day of our trip to wander around London. And really that just consisted of us taking the Underground to Westminster, seeing the touristy sights, then taking the train back to the hotel. Still... BIG BEN. 


We did get to watch the sunset from the Eye (that giant Ferris Wheel in the middle of London), which was pretty awesome. It led to some really great photos. (I mean that last one? Still takes my breath away every time I look at it.)



I really wish I could go back knowing what I know now. But isn't that the way it is with trips? I always want to take my vacations twice, because I never get to see EVERYTHING the first time. Also, the stress levels are always ridiculous for me. I really don't think that was something that could be helped, since it was Adam and I's first time out of the country. At least we picked a place where we could speak the language!


Things I'd change if I could do it again:

I'd bring multiple forms of payment. I think I mentioned it in the last post, but we were not prepared for the hassle of paying for things overseas. I knew it would be an inconvenience, but there were some miscommunications with our bank, so it crossed the line from annoying into a Problem. We got it all sorted out in the end, but for the rest of the trip I was second guessing every time we swiped a card.

I'd set an alarm. I like to sleep in during vacations, but we didn't set an alarm and ended up missing half of our day. I love sleep, I really do, but I don't think I needed to sleep THAT much.

I'd wander more. Besides the one "pub crawl," we didn't really give ourselves a lot of time to wander. I like the kind of serendipity that comes with stepping into the perfect book store, or getting the awesome meal you didn't expect.

I'd get fish and chips from the West Gate. They were just served adorably.

I. Hate. Buses. Well, no I don't hate buses. They're a great form of transportation. Rather comfortable, well heated, and I was usually able to get to sleep on them. But we had problems booking bus tickets every time, and we waited too long, (oops...) so we ended up sitting at a bus station at 1 in the morning on more than one occasion.


Things I absolutely would not change for the world:

The company. My awesome, handsome, patient husband and my fantastic, amazing, world traveling sister. I couldn't ask for two better people to enjoy another country with.

Spending so much time in Bath. I wanted to see London because, well, it's London, but I wish we could have spent another week in Bath. I loved the feeling I got from being there.

How much we walked. I averaged 16k steps a day, and I was so excited I didn't think to complain.

What I took. We just had carry on luggage, and I was worried we wouldn't have enough space on the way home, but it worked out very well. I took a sketchbook specifically bought for the trip, and a small set of watercolors. I didn't do a ton of sketching, but it was nice to have it all the same.

Buying my new headphones! I saw them at a store at home and fell in love, but we had to leave in a few days so I knew that ordering them online wouldn't work. Then I found the exact pair I wanted at a shop in O'Hare. I took that as my chance and bought them immediately. And I love them.

Heathrow airport. The security was easy, there were arrows pointing us to where we needed to go, and there was pretty much a mall to entertain you while you waited.

The sights we saw. I made a prioritized list of what I wanted to see, and I can happily say that I checked off every place.

I know there's tons of other things I wouldn't change, but if I listed every single one out it would get quite boring very quickly. So I'll just leave this off by saying that our trip to England was literally a dream come true. Thank you to everyone (*ahem* Adam and Bre) who made this not only a possibility, but a reality. I can't express how much I loved every second (even the stressful ones).

Friday, November 20, 2015

ten things




I'm head over heels jealous of this Nova cosplay by Bindi Smalls. I mean... 3D printed armor!? You don't get much more legit than that.

This Marie Antoinette inspired lookbook from WildFox is to die for! 

Loish (one of my absolute favorite artists) has released her 2016 calendar, and it's just as gorgeous as her past ones, if not even more so.

I love this breakfast in bed "room service" door hanger from Kate Spade! Do you think if I hung it on my door someone would make me breakfast? 

I've been playing a ton of Destiny, so of course I had to try to make my own ghost. This papercraft is perfect.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Adventures in England: Bath!

Last month my husband and I got a chance to go visit my sister... in ENGLAND! I had never been out of the country before, so this was a BIG DEAL for someone with huge travel dreams. I wanted to wait a while before I did this post, because in the aftershock off the trip the only thing I could remember was how insanely stressful it was (we learned a lot about how to do the money thing overseas). But now I've had time to decompress, and I'm looking through these pictures like "um, so... we're going again, right?"

I'm going to split these pictures into a few different posts (because of COURSE I took a billion and a half of them), and I'm going to start out with pictures of the place we stayed in the longest, (and, in the end, my favorite of the places we went) Bath!


Overall thoughts about Bath? GORGEOUS, but expensive. We stayed in these great apartments that were a block away from the train and bus station, a couple of blocks away from the Abbey and the Roman Baths, and literally right behind a huge shopping district. Like, there were two H&M's within a block of us. And a Primark, which was an insanely affordable shop my sister insisted I go to that I instantly fell in love with. If this sounds like the kind of place you'd like to stay, check out the SACO apartments on St. James Parade. They were a splurge, but we loved them.

As far as things to do, our time was really limited so we had to prioritize. We knew we wanted to see the Roman Baths and the Jane Austen Center, and my sister suggested the Bath Abbey, so we took a "tourist" day and went to go visit all those gorgeous sites. I actually don't know if gorgeous is a big enough word to do these places justice, so I'll just let these pictures talk for me.


The abbey was one of those things that just kind of gracefully loomed over Bath, so I have a ton of pictures of it. I couldn't get over the gothic architecture. The details made me gasp more than once.


The Roman Baths were mind blowing for me because they were the oldest structure I've ever been near, let alone in. It was beautiful there, almost soothing. At the end they offered some of the water from the baths to drink... it was like I was drinking... a key? Super metallic and not yummy at all. 

We took the time to do a little pub crawl one night, and it was one of my favorite parts of our trip. I get so caught up in the things that I just HAVE to see that I often forget to just let myself wander, but our little pub adventure helped out with that. We ended up in some beautiful places. The drawing in the top left corner was actually a gorgeous wallpaper that was hand painted. It's also the bar from the second picture on the top. See what I mean about gothic details? The second row of pictures was a pub by my sisters house, and it definitely had the most "pub" feel to me. We went there later on in the night because when we walked by the first time there was a match on and it was super crowded. 

The third row of pictures was from my favorite place in Bath, a restaurant and pub called The West Gate. The decor was very eclectic but still very trendy. The bottom set of pictures is from a pub that we wondered into last. They gave us dark beer and were playing rock music, so it was the perfect end to our night.

Besides all the typical touristy stuff, Bath itself was so pretty. I could have spent weeks there. My sister is so lucky!


That's it for Bath! In my next post I'm going to go more into the details of our trip, the things I wished we would have done differently, and what we saw in London (spoilers: a bus station. We saw a LOT of that bus station.) Be on the look out for part two!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Dystopian Games: A Teen Library Event


I think I love dystopian stories because I've always kinda wanted to be in a rebellion. I read the Giver along with everyone else in junior high, took a class on dystopias in college (where I was introduced to the lovely "Uglies" series), and latched onto The Hunger Games and Divergent when they got big. At our library we've done a few Hunger Games programs before (read my posts about the training here and the games here), but I wanted to do something a little more complicated. A little more in depth. Honestly, I wanted a rebellion.

After a fair bit of brainstorming with our teen workers, we were able to come up with a format for a teen program that would capture the essence of the whole dystopian trend: basically, the oppressive government against the brave rebellion. We wanted to do this in a way that was fair, fun and (sneakily) educational. I think we accomplished all three!


This event was broken into three phases. The first phase was sorting. One common practice in modern dystopian fiction is to sort the general population into classes/districts/factions. I always feel like this enhances the immersion of readers, mainly because you're left wondering "what group would I belong to?" I knew that this was something we definitely wanted to include in our program, so that night started out with the participants taking a quiz to find out what "sector" they would belong to. The quiz was just one I had found online and edited a bit to fit our purposes. We then "labeled" the participants with bracelets that said what sector they belonged to (pictured at the top of this post).


The participants also got a list of dystopian books and highlighted the ones they had read. We counted them up and put the number on their bracelets, telling them it would determine their "rank" in whatever group they ended up in. This made sorting them into "rebels" and "government" easier for us because we could make sure the teams were evenly matched. We thought we might have trouble convincing the "government" group, but it turns out they were as excited to be the bad guys as the rebels were to be the rebellion!

Phase two was the "battle planning" stage for both groups. Once we had them sorted to our satisfaction, I led the rebellion downstairs while my co-worker led the government group upstairs. We informed them that the battle would consist of three parts: the intelligence test (a quiz in dystopian knowledge), the physical test (a game of ninja, a current favorite of theirs), and then a debate (which we basically wanted to be a fun mudslinging campaign). I also told them they needed to think of a name, a slogan, and design a flag. The Rebellion decided that they were the "Elementals" and the government named themselves the "Capitol."



Phase three was battle time! We started out with a game of trivia, using just little facts I had gotten from the internet. I tried to focus around the series that I thought they had read, but I totally missed the mark on some of them (apparently Matched wasn't that popular with this crowd!). They still had a lot of fun, and we ended up with a tied score.


We then took them downstairs to a sort of fighting ring to play a few rounds of "ninja." I don't think I can explain in a way that does this game justice, so just take a look at this guide if it looks like something you'd like to try with your group. Again, there was no clear winner of this game. It was just a bunch of hilarious fun.


The last part of the battle was the mudslinging campaign. We had encouraged the groups to think of silly little remarks to use against the other groups. We told them that the debate would be decided by the amount of laughs their comments got, rather than how mean they were. I have to say, some of the things these teens thought of made me laugh quite a bit. While they were debating both teams held up their flags to show some team spirit. They were great!



In the end there was no clear winner, which they didn't seem to mind at all. As we herded everyone out the door, we kept hearing exclamations of "already!?" and "can we do it again?" That's when I knew that our event was a hit.


If I did it again:

I'd make a playlist for both areas. I know it's a small detail, but music is a big help in setting the atmosphere, as well as a being a big deal to teens. It's a subtle way to keep them in the loop. Find someone on the outside of the group? As them if there's a song they'd like to add to the list.

I'd be prepared for more people! We thought that our event would have 15 kids, tops. We ended up with 40! I'm not complaining, but there were a few moments that were complete chaos. If I had known how many were going to show, I probably would have planted a few kids that had prior knowledge of what was going to happen, so they could steer the group in the right direction without us having to shout every few minutes.

More time! Our event was 2 hours, which was 30 minutes longer than we had originally planned! I would give more time for planning, letting them really get into it. I felt like I had to cut them off short so we could get the games in at a reasonable time.






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