Category Archives: Stumbled Upon

Fan Girl Friday: LEGO Rivendell

Many of my students have the same love for Middle-earth that I do, so it’s not uncommon for them to send me different things that they find. One of the coolest lately is a 4 foot model of Rivendell, as seen in The Hobbit.

It’s covered in iconic rooms, 30 light-up waterfalls, and plenty of memorable moments.

Check out the full display on LEGO’s website here or check out the video overview of the model below.


Making Mondays Better: Star Wars Cat Videos

So evidently I’m a cat person now. My husband claims that I’ve always been one deep inside: they’re the perfect introvert pet, and I’m a serious introvert. My mom-in-law thinks it’s funny since I grew up with dogs but have completely taken to our kitten. My sister-in-law teases that I’m a crazy cat lady like her now… but I only have one. I can’t be that crazy, right? And now I watch the Simon’s Cat videos and laugh because I understand, not just because they’re funny.

All that to say, I’m taking the next step in being a cat person. I’m posting a cat video. But how can you beat a cat video that has to do with Star Wars?


April’s Alphabet Adventure? (I Like Adventures…)

I learn the mores and etiquette through quiet observation. That certainly goes for blogging. When I first started, I did post occasionally but mostly sat back and watched to learn how it’s done. One of the things that I learned rather early on (two or three years ago?) was about this A-Z Challenge. After silently watching others go on the adventure, I decided that I’d hop in this time. Why not?

And since it doesn’t seem right for the first post in this (currently) themeless series to have naught but musing about blogosphere sociology, let’s talk April Fool’s Day. While I’ve never been much of a prankster, I do enjoy the occasional, good-humored joke. Today’s joke: I pinned my hair up so it looked like I’d cut it. While that doesn’t seem like much, I’ve almost always had long hair (it’s currently mid-back length), and when I haven’t, I wished I did. What better way to tease everyone than to fake a short bob?

I found instructions on how to do it on Hair Romance, here.

And here’s how it turned out.

Faux bob time!

Faux bob time!

Lots of bobby pins to keep it tame!

Lots of bobby pins to keep it tame!

Pretty convincing… at least, from a distance or in a picture. Not so much up close, but that’s part of the fun.

Did you pull any pranks today?

A Paradox Wrapped in an Enigma (Machine)

Being a teacher by day, I go through quite a few books. This week, my students and I are wrapping up The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Since it’s the only major piece of nonfiction that we read during the year, I love to ground it for my middle schoolers. Yeah, they’re learning about World War II in history right now, but I like to make that connection that this isn’t just a story. This is real.

One of our most recent adventures: the German enigma machine.

Okay, so it was one of those moments that went better in practice at home and in my mind than it did in the classroom, but that doesn’t make it any less cool.

While the workings of this coding typewriter are complex, the concept behind how it works isn’t (once you have the hang of it) and can be done with just four strips of paper.

Enigma Machine

The basic idea: three rotors are set in specific positions and kept there. (Those are the three white strips with the letters and lines on them in the picture.) You then start on the far right side of the “machine” with the letter you want to encode/decode. As you pass through the rotors, the letter changes. Once you hit the far left side, you start backwards. By the time you reach the right side again, the letter is encoded/decoded.

“It takes a long time to do one letter,” my students complained.

“Which is why they used a typewriter to do the work,” I responded.

But you don’t have to have the typewriter to do the work. In fact, even though it does take some time, it’s quite fun to play with and leave secret messages!

Interested in checking out this paper enigma machine? Click here!

And if you do decide to make one (which, by the way, only requires one piece of computer paper), here’s a message for you:



Rules of Writing (Inspired by Pixar)

Happy (slightly belated) Independence Day! Here’s to the men and women who risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor and forever changed the course of history.

And now onto the topic of day…

Thanks to my friends and family, I’ve become an avid user of Pinterest. While most of what I find are new ways to braid my hair and alter my clothes, I always keep an eye out for writing inspiration. And this morning, I was rather surprised to find some.

From what I understand, Emma Coats (who worked on Brave) posted some lessons she’s learned from working with Pixar. It’s a fascinating list filled with some advice I learned long ago and new ideas worth noting. Below are a few of my favorites.

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

A huge challenge for me, but something that I aspire to do better. Being a pantser is all fun and games until somebody finds a loophole that completely changes the ending.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

And, incredibly, it seems like that is what will remain even as the story matures and the plot that used to give the story flesh is stripped away and replaced with new ideas.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

Letting go is never easy, but sometimes that time on the shelf is just what the doctor ordered.

What do you think of this list? Have any favorites?


Finding great friends is hard. Finding great friends when you’re an avid reader/writer can be even harder. After all, we’re well-acquainted with the organ known as the imagination and spend a considerable amount of time focused on it. Others’ feelings towards series/genres/authors can make or break relationships. (“What do you mean you don’t like The Lord of the Rings?!”) Okay, slight exaggeration, but it might force you to question their overall taste. And if someone doesn’t really care for reading at all, it’s utterly befuddlinng.

So, you know that you’ve found a great friend (as a reader and especially as a writer) when you can say this about them:









It’s always nice when your friends think you’re sane. :)

Lightning Bugs

I can’t remember when I became obsessed with words. But obsessed is definitely the best way to describe it. A five sentence e-mail can be a twenty-minute project. The first sentence of the first draft of a story can take days. An online thesaurus is top on the list of most used websites whenever I open a new Internet Explorer page. And I frequently become frustrated with it because of its limited selection.

As Mark Twain explained:

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

If a word’s meaning doesn’t quite convey the right idea, it might give the wrong impression (especially in an e-mail to your boss).

Last week, I was in search of another word for purple — and one of the usuals like lilac, lavender, and plum just wouldn’t do. So, upon finding an odd shade I’d never heard of, I went hunting for an example of it on the Internet. But instead of just finding an example of “perse” (a purplish-gray), I stumbled upon a website: .

Much to my delight, it’s a list of uncommon color words. Not only is this odd perse on the list but so is castaneous, gamboge, and virid, among 164 others. While not all of the words are obscure, they do bring some variety that a thesaurus sometimes doesn’t.

Have you ever come across any lists like this? Have another great word for purple?