Too Much Noise

I’ve done plenty of browsing blogs, news articles, Twitter, and LinkedIn discussions. There’s so much noise out there and people wanting to be heard that I wonder if we really hear anything. Instead of adding more noise today, I thought I’d share some travel pictures with you that I’ve collected through the years. Maybe you’ll see a place you’d like to visit. Enjoy!

This will be my last post for a few weeks. Our first U.S. guests will arrive on Sunday, and we’ll be busy sightseeing with them. Tschüß.

Niagara American Falls
Niagara American Falls
Town of Bath in the UK
Town of Bath in the UK
Wedding Couple in Vilnius, Lithuania
Wedding Couple in Vilnius, Lithuania
Point Judith in Rhode Island
Point Judith in Rhode Island
Tower Bridge in London
Tower Bridge in London
Castle and Town on the Rhine Valley
Castle and Town on the Rhine Valley
95th Floor of the John Hancock in Chicago, IL
95th Floor of the John Hancock in Chicago, IL
Swiss Alps
Swiss Alps
Mystic, Connecticut
Mystic, Connecticut
San Pietro on Portovenere, Italy
San Pietro on Portovenere, Italy
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Solingen, Germany
Solingen, Germany

Travels and Stories,
Baer Necessitites

Dream Lover

dreams

Do you hear that? No? It’s me whispering in your ear. You’re the one I hold close to my heart and I feel compelled to tell you so. I’ve dreamt a thousand dreams about you, and in those dreams you always warm me with your smile– amongst other things. You like that don’t you? I see a devious grin unzip across your face. Sometimes I lie awake at night wondering what you’re doing, or if you ever think about me. When you don’t answer, I close my eyes and drift off finding you receptive to my thoughts and feelings.

Our time is limited, only minutes it seems until my alarm clock shouts at me, something you never do. The lightness of your breath warms my face and body like a slow moving fog. You cover me darkening everything around us. The salt and tenderness of your lips drift me deeper, as you are, into our dream. A restless soul calmed by the silence and pleasure you fulfill. Your thumb gently glides across my lips, cheeks as we plunge deeper into our fantasy. With an indescribable intensity, our bodies stop, collide, release sweet juices ripened from our time away.

It’s here where our separate lives become one. Our breathing brings music to the room, while we lay next to each other skin greased with sweat. Words are unnecessary at this moment. When the room settles, and we’re about to turn to one another, reality pulls me away. But before I leave you in my dreams, I whisper, “You’ll always be my Dream Lover.”

Now here you sit across from me thinking about what we’ve experienced together. This is the moment, outside of our dream, where I finally get to say…

Deep inside my unconsciousness
You stir, relinquish my righteousness
For I’m uninhibited, open to discover
What darkness has from my Dream Lover.

I wrote this back in March 2009 after a dream I had of my now husband. Our online friendship was still new, but I had already fallen in love with him. I like looking back to see how good or bad my writing was and get a small peek at the past to see what was going on at the time.

Do you ever look back at your writing? Or reflect on what was going on in your life at the time and how your writing related to it?

Dreams and Reality,
Baer Necessities

A Proper Way to Review

Amazon is my “go-to” place for all kinds of purchases, but I’ve only reviewed books. Product reviews seem uncomfortable to write. I guess I’m afraid of actually not understanding the instructions or the products proper use, so I’ve avoided these types of reviews. Since I understand books and writing, I believe I have reasonable experience to comment.

In my pursuit of learning how to write product reviews, I came across some wonderful examples on Amazon that I’d like to share with you.

The first product I’d like to discuss is the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer. It’s safer than using a knife, can be put in the dishwasher, and it’s a one-step process to cutting the banana.

If I bought this product, I’d have no idea how to review it, good or bad, so I turned to some wonderful Amazon reviewers for guidance. For this one, we’ll start with a 5-Star review.

SW3K says, “No more winning for you, Mr. Banana!”

For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. “Use a knife!” they say. Well…my parole officer won’t allow me to be around knives. “Shoot it with a gun!” Background check…HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands. 99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger. Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed …”

This review has really made me think about the alternatives, which aren’t very good. The 571 Banana Slicer is the best way to slice a banana, and reduces stress. The reviewer not only points out other ways of slicing bananas, but “a peels” to people’s emotional side. Bravo!

Let’s see how helpful a 1-Star review is in deciding if I want this product.

Q-Tip says: “Confusing”

There is no way to tell if this is a standard or metric banana slicer. Additional markings on it would help greatly.”

Actually, I would have never thought about it, and I live in another country. This statement points out something that isn’t necessarily obvious to everyone. If I bought without “giving a slice”, then I’d totally be screwed trying to use it on a German banana.

Our next product is something we all can enjoy, lactose intolerant or not. A gallon of Tuscan Whole Milk is full of Vitamin D.

This time, we’ll just look at a 1-Star review. I really could understand what the reviewer is saying because it’s similar as to how Emily Dickinson could not stop for death. I understand the buyer’s frustration in waiting for the milk, and when it finally arrives, it’s sour. From this curdled experience, I’d have to pass on buying it.

S. Mayo says: With apologies to Emily”

Because I could not stop for milk,
It kindly came to me.
I ordered it through Amazon,
Whole milk; sweet Tuscany.

The driver, though, he knew no haste,
No Expediter, he!
The wait: Four days, and weekend, too.
It seemed eternity.

My milk, it passed through NYC
Where traffic snarled in rings,
Slow past the fields of grazing cows
Who nodded knowingly.

Its expiration date passed, too;
And though the truck was chill,
Vile germs digested lactose sweet
And had their gruesome fill.

It paused before my house at last,
(By USPS Ground)
My gallon jug; 128 ounce
Though oddly swollen `round.

My joy is dashed! My hope denied!
Alas, milk lacks the power
To strive towards immortality:
My Tuscan milk’s gone sour.

-S&J”

Last but not least, I’d like to share this wonderful product and its reviewers. The AMSCAN Face Paint comes in white and is non-toxic.

I took this 5-Star review at face value because it explains how the product improved someone’s life.

S. Archer shares, “Friend finally able to hail a cab!”

I purchased this for an African-American friend of mine in New York who frequently has trouble hailing a cab. Well, he used this face paint and now cabs are picking him up, the hostess at Denny’s actually seated him, and he hasn’t been “stopped and frisked” by the NYPD since!”

I mean, how can you not get teary-eyed knowing that police no longer harass this guy’s friend. He even gets to eat without refusal. Then I read this 1-Star review, warning others of its effects. It doesn’t pale in comparison, but only leaves me torn.

Pen Name warns: Beware

If you’re a black man like myself don’t put thie white paint on your penis. I did and it quickly shrunk to 1/4 of its original size … “

And if I wasn’t confused enough, I read this 4-Star review, and it left me speechless.

M. Taylor shares: Perfection in a Tube

My mime class went ape-crazy over this stuff. Comments ranged from “_________!” to “__________!!!”. You’ve never seen people so excited.”

The one commonality I found in these reviews is they are personalized. These reviewers pour their emotions out to assist buyers in making decisions. Do I or don’t I? The answer lies within each personal experience.

Do you write product reviews? What’s your favorite product?

Amazon, Products, and Reviews,
Baer Necessities

Book Pairing of Unseen with Gummy Bear Cake

Up until now, I’ve been hesitant about reviewing books, but I figured, just because I’m an author doesn’t mean I can’t comment as a reader. There’s nothing I can do if someone wants to retaliate, and I shouldn’t let that silence my opinions. I love discussing books, and since I don’t belong to a book club, this is my way of discussion. Reader participation is highly encouraged and appreciated.

I’ll be pairing my book reviews with a type of food or drink, and each section will receive stars based on a 5-star rating. Of course, these reviews are completely my own opinion. No one has paid me (although I do like money), coerced me (I’m okay within certain situations), and none of my other personalities have come out in the process of writing this review.

Today, I will be discussing Unseen by Stephanie Erickson and pairing it with Gummy Bear Cake.

Amazon’s Description

Mackenzie Day constantly struggles to silence the voices in her head. The inner thoughts of those around her intrude upon every aspect of her life, threatening to turn it into chaos.

All her life, she thought she was alone as a mind reader—a freak.

Then a member of a secret organization called The Unseen suddenly introduces himself, and she’s immersed in a world she never knew existed. They teach her to hone her skills as a reader, but to what end? Secrets surround her, humming just out of reach, filling her with questions.

Who are they? What do they do with their mind-reading abilities? In the end, just how far will Mackenzie go to be part of The Unseen?

Book Cover: 5/5 Stars

The book cover captured my attention right away. Within the words, you can see parts of a woman, such as her eye, mouth, and hair. Her eye color is similar to the butterfly. The way I interpret the butterfly is a representation of her freedom. Her iLs kept her cocooned, closed off from everyone around her. Once she meets the Unseen, she becomes free of her iLs. This book’s frosting made me want to read it.

For instance, take this Gummy Bear Cake. The surrounding frosting on top and the colorful layers within the dark, chocolate cake makes me want to eat it. And let’s not forget the Gummy Bears and all their different flavors.

Book Idea: 5/5 Stars

This book was free on Indie Author News, so I downloaded it because I also thought the premise of the book was great. A mind reader trying to fit in by quieting the voices using iLs. Music helped her as a child, so it was no wonder she wanted to become a Music Therapist. Then she comes across this secret group called the Unseen. They’re also mind readers, who invite her to join so they can help improve her skills. These are the fixings of a good paranormal book, which isn’t a normal genre I read.

The makings for a Gummy Bear Cake sound awesome too. Even though I don’t often eat cake, the combination of sugar, butter, buttermilk, flour, eggs, and icing is a sugar coma waiting to happen. Sometimes, it’s good to dive into something different.

Plot: 2/5

Erickson started out strong, but then it seemed she got lazy with the story. She wanted to make everything neat and tidy. Readers are able to predict what comes next because there isn’t any conflict. The main character, Mackenzie has lived her life listening to music. It blocked out the voices and helped her concentrate. Her best friend, Maddie is the one person she has trusted throughout her entire life, yet not enough to tell her she was a mind reader until she meets the Unseen.

They constantly text each other, and neither could do anything without talking to the other. I felt the author wasted pages of meaningless dialogue. Below is an excerpt between the two friends. They’re taking pictures of what they are wearing on their dates and texting. This is just a little bit of the 2-1/2 eBook pages of conversation with thoughts tossed in between.

Tada!
Lovely! Thank you! Although, you might want to keep the face to yourself.
And how about you?

A little daring, don’t you think?
Absolutely.
No wardrobe malfunctions tonight, huh?
Haha! No malfunctions here! If these babies come out, it’ll be on purpose.
Okay, well, good luck with that. I gotta run to the restaurant.
Have fun and call me when you’re done!

And while I tried to ignore some of the wasted dialogue space, I couldn’t get past the unrealistic scenes in the story. Mackenzie is excited to start her life’s dream as a Music Therapist, which she worked hard at and is now working on her thesis. Some guy, Owen shows up and introduces her to the Unseen. She’s very wary of them, thinking they might kill her. Of course, if she decides to join the Unseen, she has to give up everything, live in their complex, and dedicate the rest of her life to them. This is about the amount of build up the reader gets before decisions are made and all goals abandoned.

Owen kisses her, and in a flash, she decides to be with the Unseen. Below is an excerpt of the scene.

“Instead, he leaned in, kissing me deeply, and sensation eclipsed thought. His lips were soft and warm, his hands tangled in my hair, my own hands wrapped around his shoulders, holding on for dear life…”
“Does that answer your question?”
“I need to find David.”
“Not quite what I wanted to hear after giving a girl some of my best moves, but okay. How come?”
“To tell him I’m in.”

Really? This is unbelievable to me. I don’t know anyone, no matter how smitten they are, who would give up their life’s dream, friends, and their home for people and a future they know nothing about. Once she joins, there are these secrets about their leader, David, and what they do. Mackenzie blindly walks away from everything all because a guy kissed her. To add to my aggravation, there was no mystery, because I figured out what they did and who David was early on.

  • SPOILER
Mackenzie finally finds out that they are a counter terrorist group working for the government, and David is her father. She goes off calling them murderers.

Erickson took a great idea, and did little with it. All of these things are signs that she didn’t care much about the validity of plot.  It reminds me of something Samuel Johnson wrote: “… fiction loses its force when it departs from the resemblance of reality.” I couldn’t get into the book because it departs from reality.

It’s similar to baking a cake. If I’m baking a cake and leave out the flour or eggs, the cake isn’t able to stand on its own. It needs flour and eggs in order for it to be a cake. A cake, like a book, needs to have certain elements to keep everything together.

Characters: 2/5

The characters are in their twenties, yet they come off very immature. It reads like a teen book. Maddie and Mackenzie are always texting. Mackenzie is either pushing or throwing something at Owen. Plain and simple, Mackenzie is unreliable. She flips her feelings around faster than a “heartbeat.” I need to rely on the protagonist in order for me to connect and like the character. It’s fine for a character to change their mind, but then show the change and its effects. In regards to this book, the characters made life-altering decisions within a matter of hours or a day, and when tragedy hits, feelings of loss don’t flood the pages.

Plus, all the characters are one-dimensional. There aren’t any layers to them. Mackenzie remains the same whether it’s getting a new job, going on a date, or something tragic happening. None of the characters grow as the story moves along.

  • SPOILER
Mackenzie’s best friend, who she trusts in the whole wide world is killed (isn’t that convenient for the author), and there are no breakdowns. She doesn’t lose herself to loss.

When she finds out the Unseen are counter terrorists, she is horrified, throws up, and doesn’t want Owen or any of them near her, yet she stays to listen to Owen. Why? Because what he says will be different from what the leader said. He might change her mind. I felt it was the author’s way of filling pages.

It’s like ordering a cake. Based off the name, Gummy Bear Cake, I would have certain expectations, such as the cake having Gummy Bears or it’s shaped like one. I’d be pissed if it arrived with marshmallows all over it. I want to eat Gummy Bears, just like I want to read about characters realistic characters. And the blurb doesn’t hint to romance but paranormal, which is what I was expecting with layers of secrets. This cake has layers of icing, but the book failed to produce any. It’s just a thin coat of vanilla.

Writing and Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Similar to the above Gummy Bear Cake, this book didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. It lacked ingredients to keep it together. Because of the weak and predictable plot, and the boring characters, I can only give this book 2-1/2 stars.

  • SPOILER
Mackenzie joins the Unseen and she exceeds all other mind readers. One of the big secrets is that David is Mackenzie’s father. Maddie conveniently dies, so Mackenzie doesn’t have to split up her time. She shows no remorse for a friend who stuck by her through everything. She quickly gets over that the Unseen are counter terrorists and stays with them because she then believes they are doing good in the world.

The story is void of character conflict and progression. The characters remain the same from beginning to end. There is plenty of dialogue between Mackenzie and Maddie, which doesn’t move the story forward.

Erickson had some good lines, but repetition spoiled it. I liked the simplicity of this line. “…he laughed that beautiful laugh of his.” And this one, “You know, for someone who says he’d hate to say goodbye to me, you’re sure not giving me much to say hello to.” Unfortunately, the repeated rolling of the eyes, smiling, and creepy, buried these types of lines.

Also, I found too many things stated without being described or the action described could not be done. “I knew his feelings ran deep (How? This is where show comes into play); I can tell you’re enamored with him (How? Describe); I could tell the sentiment was genuine (How? Describe); We stood face-to-face for a heartbeat (A heartbeat is pretty quick); The look in his eyes said he was telling the truth. (How can a look say you’re telling the truth)”. These are just a few from the book, but there are plenty more I could tells.

I don’t think I’ll be reading another Stephanie Erickson book, even if it is free.

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, please visit Amazon for your copy.
For the Gummy Bear Cake recipe, stop on by Raspberricupcakes.

Have you read this book or any by Stephanie Erickson? What are your thoughts about the book? What are your thoughts about the review?

Reading and Cake,
Baer Necessities

Where’d that come from?

A month ago, I told my husband that our dog lives the life of Riley. After I said it, I asked, “who is Riley, and what kind of life did he lead?” Then I started thinking about other words or phrases (idioms), so here is what I found out as to where they came from. Since there is always conflicting information out there, I’m going to find the one farthest in history (not Wikipedia).

Living the life of Reilly 1

To answer my question, “who is Riley, and what kind of life did he lead?” is a boring one. When we say, “He lives a life of Riley,” we mean that “he” has an easy and pleasant life. According to history, no one can truly say who Riley is or even of the correct spelling, Reilly, O’Reilly. 1883 lyrics in a song, written by Pat Rooney, suggest sarcasm toward the NY city registrar, John Reilly, regarding how he profited from his position. “A hundred a day will be very small pay / when the White House and Capitol are mine.” Even though living the life of Reilly doesn’t appear in his lyrics, they sung of a Reilly and his easy, rich lifestyle.

Pic from http://www.ctva.biz

It wasn’t until 1917, during WWI that the actual phrase appeared. Newspapers published letters soldiers sent home from training camps and active duty in France. The papers pointed out this expression because they never heard of it. Here’s a 1918 extract from Private Robert D. Ward’s letter home: “In addition there are about 43 medical men and we live like princes or, as they say here, “the life of Riley.” We get wonderful “eats” and have the best pass privileges of any men at the post.” And another 1918 extract: “They must have led the life of Reilly as we caught them all asleep in beds and it was quite a sight to see our boys chasing them around in their pajamas — the German officers’ pajamas, not our boys’.”

From the collected information, the assumption is the phrase was created or was a local known expression that spread during WWI. The French picked it up along with British soldiers, who were familiar with Rooney’s song.

Eavesdropping 2

Haven’t we all eavesdropped at some point in our lives? Some more than others, but depending on the situation, people have a tendency to want to find out about something or someone without directly asking. Therefore, we will eavesdrop on a conversation to find the answer.

Pic from http://assets.londonist.com/uploads/2015/01/dsc_0131.jpg

I’ve become a documentary junkie. While watching a documentary of Henry VIII (Inside The Court of Henry VIII Documentary 2015), at (28:00) it explains how the term eavesdropping came about. It’s fascinating and interesting to learn about such words used in today’s time that are linked back hundreds of years ago. Henry VIII had acquired Hampton Court Palace. The Great Hall inside the palace had painted figures in the eaves throughout called eavesdroppers. Henry VIII had them placed there for a purpose—reminders to the courtiers that everything they said was overheard.

Crocodile Tears 3

Did you know Crocodiles can cry? I didn’t. Like most animals, crocodiles have tear glands. When they eat their prey, they huff as they blow air out of their nose, which may press and cause their tear glands to empty. The first recorded instance of crocodiles weeping shows up in a travel narrative from 1400.

When someone says, “He’s crying crocodile tears,” they mean he isn’t sincere. The expression dates back to the mid-sixteenth century. Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of the life of Edmund Grindal as “I begin to fear, lest his humility . . . be a counterfeit humility, and his tears crocodile tears.” This stems from belief that crocodiles would weep to lure their prey. The prey would come close and the crocodile would eat it with tears coming down. Beware of those with crocodile tears.

Pic from http://images1.dailykos.com/i/user/6685/crocodiletears.jpg

Rub the Wrong Way 4

We all come across people who rub us the wrong way, or it might be the other way around, we rub them the wrong way. Actually, we don’t have to meet the person for them to rub us the wrong way.

Pic from http://assets-s3.usmagazine.com/uploads/assets/celebrities/204-tom-hanks/1251126993_tom_hanks_290x402.jpg

According to what I found, this phrase is from colonial times. In houses with oak-board floors, servants were to wet-rub and dry-rub the floors. They were to rub along with the grain of the wood. If done wrong, there would be streaks all through the wood floors, embarrassing the owner of the house, and him calling the servants clumsy. Usually, when someone rubs us the wrong way, it’s from a clumsy thing they said or action.

What words or phrases have you wondered about their etymology?

Words and Origins,
Baer Necessities

P.S. If you get a chance, stop on over at JeriW’s site to read about my experience in compiling an anthology.

1 http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-ril1.htm
2 Inside the Courts of Henry VIII Documentary 2015
3 http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/01/can-crocodiles-really-cry/
4. http://www.brownielocks.com/wordorigins.html