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Some Big News – Baby White is On the Way!

I’ve put off the news for long enough – I’m pregnant!

This is the first day or so that I’ve actually started to show, so you’re seeing the bump for the very first time…and I’m attempting not to freak out about it!

Finding out about the pregnancy was certainly a surprise for Jeremy and I, not because we were trying NOT to, but because we simply weren’t sure I had the ability. When I found out, I was already 7.5 weeks along – halfway through the first trimester with absolutely no symptoms!

As of today I’m 18 weeks along. No cravings, no sickness, just a slowly growing baby inside. We’ll find out the gender in 2 weeks and I cannot wait. In the meantime we’re acquiring what we can that’s gender-neutral – the crib arrived yesterday and its already set up, sitting in a big empty room just waiting for others to join.

I won’t be discussing the pregnancy here at Taste of Wonderland, but you can follow this new, exciting, and scary adventure into motherhood over at Writing In White!

I’m also at Top Baby Blogs, so if you like Writing in White, be sure to vote for me by clicking on the banner below, then clicking on the owl on the Left. Simple as that!
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FREE Dining at Disney this Fall!

There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply eating your way through Walt Disney World. Unless, of course, it’s getting the chance to do it Free.

Disney has just opened up their Free Dining Offer for this Fall and I’m planning on taking advantage of it – Who’s with me?!

Beginning September 30th and continuing until December 13th, guests staying at the resort will receive the Disney Dining Plan absolutely free of charge. Book a Value resort and get the Quick Service meal plan; book a Moderate, Deluxe or Villa and get the Regular plan, which includes a table service meal, a quick service meal, and a snack for each person, every day. This is a big deal, people.

The plans even include snacks for everyone in your party each day. On top of all that, you can upgrade to the Deluxe Dining Plan (my personal favorite) for only the cost of what would normally be the difference between the two plans (about $34 per adult, per day). The Deluxe includes 3 table service meals and 2 snacks per person, per day – that’s a lot of time eating a lot of amazing food!

I happen to be a Disney Travel Specialist, so if you want to join in on the Free Dining Extravaganza, just shoot me an email! I happen to love planning other’s vacations. amanda@noveltraveler.com.

On Vikings and the Crazy Profession of Writing

I have a weakness for Vikings. From the time I was a very little girl, my family would frequently play a game – we would take each person’s name and say it backwards, knowing that it was our secret, ancestral Viking name. For instance, my father – the fiercest of us all – was known as Nor Nameloc by his children. Not all the time, mind you, but enough to make it a household title to this day.

Perhaps it is for this reason – and the fact that I likely stemmed from that far-off line of warriors – that I love the words of Chuck Wendig. He’s certainly humorous – not to mention profane, rude, and a bit of a nut. In regards to his blog, he himself says, “If [my writing is] for anybody, it’s for berserker Vikings, the dangerously insane, and… I dunno, grizzly bears or something.”

Well, since my father also styles himself after Grizzly Adams, I had to share this article I unearthed. Chuck contributed a guest post over at Writer Unboxed, and I now relay it to anyone with an interest in writing (or who may be hurtling the mountain I call Graduate school).

Here’s some highlights:

Own the Crazy – If you’re a writer, you’re probably a little crazy. At the bare minimum, you’re probably a little moony. Quirky. Eccentric. Odd. Slightly skewed worldview. This is a good thing.

Listen, this thing that we do? It’s already pretty nuts. We sit. By ourselves. Inside on a nice day. We stick our nose in a notebook or glue our half-ruined eyes to the computer monitor. And there we conjure worlds out of nothing, worlds were everything is going wrong starring characters who we love but who are also damaged goods. And then we try to get it published, which is a league of unparalleled insanity no matter which path you choose.

What I’m telling you is: let the crazy be your guide. Let it be the jaguar-headed shaman that drags you into the heart of the penmonkey jungle. Fight crazy with crazy.

To read exactly how to fight this crazy battle with your own blend of insanity, head over to Writer Unboxed and check out the rest of the article.  I promise that you will not only be thoroughly entertained, you’ll be enlightened, as well!

Chuck Wendig is an author of numerous books, and also blogs at TerribleMinds.com.

Dream a Little Dream

Let me tell you about a small aspiration of mine. Small, because it isn’t grand by any means. A dream, because I don’t know when – or if – it will ever happen. This tiny dream has flitted through my head for a few years now, and has taken shape the way only true dreams can.

I would like to own a tiny Bohemian shop. This shop has a very clever name, but one so close to my heart that I can’t bear to write it out for the world to see as of yet. The shop is located by the sea somewhere, and although I can’t quite hear the ocean from the doorstep, I can imagine it, and almost make out the blue waves over the horizon. There is a porch overflowing with wild vines and flowers, and every morning I check them and make sure no weed has set foot in their territory.

I will only sell a few things, specializing in those particular items so that the collection is eclectic and ME. This would be books primarily, but only those that I truly love and want to pass along to others. I would concoct healthy treats made with natural ingredients – small indulgences that people can feel good about eating while they browse the store and decide which purchases to make. Perhaps they will take a dessert home with them and curl up to feast on it and their new book, escaping into a world that I have long-adored.

I will wear a bandana in my hair and embrace the salt in the air. My husband would smoke a pipe while recommending important yet interesting works of literature, and I have a small room in the back to paint whimsical scenes on canvases that will adorn the walls. These paintings will be for sale, allowing those who wander into our small shop of wonders the chance to take home a visual representation of their time in this particular town.

We go home at night, where I write about my encounters with these people and form stories surrounding them. We make a small dinner and thank God that he’s given us contentment. Content, because while we aren’t rich by any means, we are happy as only those who do something they truly love – something they find a wealth of meaning in – can be.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

A bit more tan and much more relaxed, I came home from our Spring Break at the beach to a house that looked completely different than the one I left. My husband and I purchased it in November, so we didn’t know exactly what the yard would look like once Spring began to show its pretty face.

No, this is not my home...only in my dreams. But just look at that garden!

I’m sitting on our back porch as I write this, looking at green plants and bright blossoms – and staring at the little vegetable garden with a mixture of apprehension and dread.

I certainly don’t consider myself too prissy when it comes to the outdoors. After all, I sat on the beach for more than a week, didn’t I? Aside from that not-so-telling example, I will readily boast that spiders do not bother me very much, and I love birds and small animals. I adore English gardens, and hope that I can transform my back yard into a real life Wonderland (hence the reason for the photos in this post). So why the fear of this tiny plot of raised beds? I’m not sure.

An English Garden, complete with Alice and White Rabbit statues

There’s the fear of the unknown, certainly. What if nothing grows? Even worse, what if it grows and then I somehow manage to kill it off? The fear of failure has kept me from many things – surely I can conquer this garden. Of course, the fact that I walked into it yesterday and encountered two-foot stalks of Asparagus covered with unidentifiable black and red insects could have put me off a bit, as well.

I’m just going to have to purchase a pair of gloves and step into this uncharted territory. The idea of just-picked strawberries, tomatoes, asparagus and peppers is almost too appealing to pass up simply due to fear (and creepy insects). Perhaps I’ll even truly enjoy it and can begin an herb garden similar to those that my ancestors cultivated. Now THAT would be an interesting endeavor!

What a fantastic idea for an Herb Garden!

Writing, Researching, and Genetic Memory

Although the first draft of my novel has been completed for some months now, I am still very much in the process of editing, gathering new information, and just generally attempting to make it the best book it can be. This has only been accomplished sporadically, however – the nerd in me makes sure that schoolwork comes first.

High Street - Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire, England

Ancestry and heritage have become the driving force in my Creative Writing class this semester, so it was only natural that they should come out in my personal writing, as well. The idea of lineage has popped up in the minds of my characters, and they have now begun their own exploration. But the plot had already been set more than a year ago – the theme of the book written down and sent out to literary agents. These characters were only supposed to look for minor details and a bit of new information – certainly not make major discoveries.

So it came as a shock (and a bit of disbelief) to realize that my life, and that of one of my characters, had come to a collision.

Last night I sat researching the location where Mary Bliss Parsons, the Witch of Northampton, had been born. I knew she was an immigrant to the New World, arriving with her family in Plymouth when she was very small, and immediately making her way to their new home in Massachusetts. The Parsons family had sailed from Gloucestershire, England, where Mary’s parents had been born and later married at St. Patrick’s church.

Puzzlewood, in the Forest of Dean - Gloucestershire, England

Looking up further information on Gloucestershire, I soon found a large amount of picturesque photos, all depicting homes and pastureland in the Cotswolds of England. One in particular caught my attention. It looked so familiar, as if I had seen it before. Glancing at the caption written below, I saw the words “Bibury, Gloucestershire, England.” Bibury – the birthplace of one of the main characters in my book.

Bibury, England in Gloucestershire

But I had selected Bibury as this character’s home more than a year before. At that time I had not even begun to think about my ancestry, and would have had no knowledge of Mary Bliss or her hometown. Was it simply a coincidence? Or did something within me recognize Bibury, wanting my character to hail from this particular location? Regardless of the reason, my life had now been linked to that of my fictional character, forming a bond that a mere pen never could.

Perhaps I will find more connections such as this. I am certainly not one to ignore relevant information, and will now have to find a way to add a new element to my book. Two seemingly unrelated characters may discover they have family ties. Or perhaps an ancestor’s memories will make their way into the mind of someone in the present day.

Perhaps this discovery has been the sole reason for the stall in my progress of the book. Providence – I’ll take it.

GardenGrocer.com – A Different Way to Dine in Disney

If you are familiar with Disney World and have allergies, chances are you’re familiar with GardenGrocer.com. If not, then it may benefit you to get to know the company and what they do.

In a nutshell, Garden Grocer is an online grocery store that allows vacationers a way to get items they may not be able to find at their resort. This is especially useful when in Walt Disney World, because the small resort markets do not typically offer a wide variety of specialty items (and their prices aren’t very budget friendly). Garden Grocer offers tons of Organic, Gluten Free, and Kosher products that will help to supplement meals while in the World. They also have baby care items, health and beauty products, and prepared meals available.

Their prices are comparable to other grocery stores, and because they charge a minimal delivery fee, the stress of finding transportation to a real grocery store is eliminated! This is a wonderful tool to utilize for longer stays, especially in a villa-style accommodation where some meals will probably be cooked in the room.

I know that I will be using this option for our next trip to Disney World. It simply isn’t worth the hassle of trying to bring in a case of water and my myriad of gluten free snacks! Has anyone else used this before? I would love to learn of your experience with the service.

Tell Walmart to Stop Selling GM Corn

Walmart is the largest U.S. food retailer, and if we can pressure them to reject Genetically Modified sweet corn – like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods already have – there’s a good chance that farmers won’t plant it this spring.

Monsanto’s Genetically Modified corn could be in stores this year, but it may be possible to reject it. If the corn makes it into our grocery stores and restaurants, there is no law that says it has to be labeled. Think about it: you have no idea of the food you and your family will be eating.

30,000 have already signed the petition, but before it gets sent to Walmart there has to be at least 100,000 signatures. Would you like to be a part of this huge step towards natural foods? Then, sign the petition!

Tell Walmart to Reject Monsanto’s GM Sweet Corn Now

2012 – Go On, Brush Your Shoulders Off

There’s someone on my shoulder that is whispering – becoming increasingly more annoying each time I hear her taunting me. “New Year, New You!” the girl chants over and over, doing jumping jacks while ridding the house of Christmas decor. “New Year, New You!” she proclaims with far too much enthusiasm as I attempt to swat her away.

On the other shoulder sits a couch containing a dormant pudge of a person. I like to picture this “devil on my shoulder” as an Augustus Gloop of a little boy, attractive in his dormancy as he shovels leftover Christmas candy down his throat. He knows full-well that the new year is upon us all, yet he defiantly laughs with his mouth full, switching on the television instead of reading something productive.

The balance to these two extremes stands directly in the middle; I am the moderator to the two halves of my self. I could very easily give in to Augustus and share a tub of ice cream with him as we make fun of those around us. After all, those people so full of hope in the new year are just going to fall into their old habits within weeks, right? On the other hand (or shoulder), I could just as easily work myself to death at the gym, refuse to eat one more morsel that isn’t Paleo friendly, and slip over the deep end into a pool of self-idolization. Instead I must focus on that lost art of moderation – something that will not be taught on television, at the movies, or in a book. No book, that is, except one; I can only hope to survive with my head above water if I train my eyes on the Words that matter.

Is it only the physical that concerns most people as they ring in a new year?

My goal is to be productive this year. Not in a way that will wear me down and cause me to give up at the end of this month, but productive by continually seeking His voice and going through the motions that will put a smile on His face. I have to tune out the media in order to do this. Ads alternate between extravagances, indulgences, and images that all lead to one thing – the creation of self idolatry in this culture. I am going to have to focus on moderation in order to balance the two people on my shoulders. And in order to focus I’ll need to keep my nose firmly planted in a Book.

What about you? Do you have goals for the new year? Do the slogans on television and the ads in magazines have an effect on you as the calendar changes over?