Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thar She Blows--How to Have the Best Whale Watch Experience

Cape Ann Whale Watch

Several weeks ago, on Sunday July 6th, my family took a day trip to Gloucester, MA for a whale watch! We used to take these out of Boston, and I remember them being quite fun (although I also have a distinct memory of someone on the deck above us getting very sick...). Mom found a Groupon for the Cape Ann Whale Watch so that the normal price of $48 was discounted to the $30s.

The whale watch lasted over five hours. The boat started in Gloucester, and then drove an hour and a half, all the way down to Provincetown, on the very end of the Cape! We were having a lot of luck finding animals, so they gave us a little more time on the water before heading back. Three whale species put on a little show for us while we were out there--finback whales, which are the second largest creatures on earth (next to the blue whale); minke whales, a smaller baleen whale; and humpbacks. We also drove through a large pod of dolphins--they were wave-riding and jumping on all sides of the boat! Afterwards, we hit the town--as much as you can on a Sunday night when everything is closed.

The Cape Ann Whale Watch prides itself on being educational. A marine biologist stood at the bow of the boat, pointing out whales when she saw them and talking about the different species. Staff members went around with maps of our route, pieces of baleen to look at, and whale-based matching games. On the way back, the upper deck became home to a play area for the young kids when a staff member pulled out a bag of toy sea creatures.

There are many different companies that have whale watches and many different outcomes of these trips. but I highly recomend everyone try one. Read below for my photos and tips for having the best experience possible! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Friday Five: Some Link Love

I had planned a nice review of five iPhone apps I'm currently a bit infatuated with, but that will be moved to next week in light of the fact that immediately after I get off work today I am headed for New Hampshire to cross off another of my Thirty Before Thirty list--hike Mount Washington! Instead, I will leave you with a few links that I have been enjoying immensely.

// After months of nagging, I finally followed a friend's suggestion to listen to the overly clever, quirky, and nearly perfect podcast Welcome to Night Vale. I listen to the twenty minute installments when I need an intelligent pick-me-up but am too lazy to decide on a book--and I've got a lot to catch up on, since the first of the episodes was released on June 15, 2012 and the series is up to number 50!

// I think I missed a calling to be a panda caretaker, but I try to make up for it by watching as many panda videos as possible. This lovely snippet of roly-poly black-and-white fuzzballs tumbling down a slide is endlessly squee-worthy!

// My college is one of the nerdiest out there, and full of both literary and film geeks on top of that. Several of my classmates have teamed up to create The Gathering Storm, a Marader Era fan film complete with accurate costumes and permits to film in a Massachusetts castle. Shooting has wrapped, but their Facebook page is full of behind-the-scenes goodies--I cannot wait for this to be released!

// My tiny, triangular closet is an ongoing struggle for me. I take inspiration from ideas like the capsule wardrobe, but since it is unlikely I will be able to pare down my clothes that much, I also look for sneaky ways to organize my closet to fit the maximum number of items possible.

What ideas or quotes or videos caught your eye this week? I'd love to see them!
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Pinkaboos Book Tour, Review, & Giveaway

Helping Children Fight Fear Since May 2014!

Be Sure to Check out the Fearless Giveaway Below! Entry is by comment!
(see details below this post)

The Pinkaboos Book Tour | Pennies & Paper Blog

I'm very excited to announce that this is my very first book tour! I adore books (obviously) and over the years I've decided that I would like to go into children's book publishing at some point, so the Pinkaboos book tour was a perfect fit! Don't forget to enter the giveaway by commenting!

The Pinkaboos Book Tour | Pennies & Paper Blog
Pinkaboos: Bitterly and the Giant Problem
by Laura Gosselin & Jake Gosselin
May 27, 2014 by Zeta Comics
Goodreads || Barnes & Noble

This is going to be the best year ever for best friends Bitterly, Abyssma and Belladonna as they are starting a new school year at Fright School! As young frights they'll learn how to chase aware the fears of little human girls by entering their dreams and teaching them how to overcome nightmares. 

But when Bitterly, the most promising fright, is faced with a school bully and some nightmares of her own, she finds help from the last place she expected--the little girl whom she has sworn to protect. 

Pinkaboos is an empowering new chapter book series for girls and young readers (6-9) that presents the challenges of childhood through the thrilling and magical world of the Pinkaboos. 

Praise for the Pinkaboos chapter books from the author of Monster High: "Facing fears has never been so much fun. The Pinkaboos are ah-dorable!" -Lisi Harrison, author of The Clique, Alphas, Monster High, Pretenders.

In my opinion, there can never be enough children's books with a positive message and a good vocabulary. One of my biggest pet peeves is beginner chapter books that dumb down the language and simplify the story to boot. Kids are very intelligent, and a book that is a little difficult will challenge them to look up the few words they don't know, or reread those plot-driven sentences that are a little more complex. This first book in the Pinkaboos series has neither issue, I am happy to say!

The plot and characters are simple enough for younger readers to follow but there are plenty of details to keep older readers interested. Each character has defined characteristics that are clearly laid out but also give some depth. The plot focuses on real-life issues of fears and bullying, with positive ideas for how to overcome those issues. And the vocabulary is perfect--while some words may be a little difficult for a six-year-old, the sentence context is usually very clear and they can also "grow into" the book a little bit. I love the little cliffhanger at the end of the story--the Pinkaboos characters will turn into a great series, with tons of options for plots and new ideas.

The little details about how the frights enter dreams, use their magic, and eat insect pie are a delicate mish-mash of Monsters, Inc. and Harry Potter, and it is something that I was happily surprised to find worked really well. Overall, the book is super cute and quirky, which I love!

The main drawback for me was the heavy-handed gendering. It is aimed at young girls, which is clear from the color scheme and characters, and, though I understand that from a marketing perspective, I am always on the lookout for diverse and non-gender-specific stories that boys and girls can learn from together. It isn't to say that boys can't enjoy this story, only that they are much less likely to given society's current highly-gendered norms.

Still, the first Pinkaboos book was a refreshing read that will challenge beginners but reinforce positive lessons and vocabulary for more advanced readers.

★ ★ ★  ☆ Good

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.

About the Authors

The Pinkaboos Book Tour | Pennies & Paper Blog
Laura Gosselin - After receiving her undergraduate degree in English from Cal State University Long Beach in California, Laura Gosselin completed her MFA at Stony Brook Southampton. She has since served as a reporter for a local newspaper in New York, an editor for a national magazine in Vancouver, Canada, as well as senior copywriter for a marketing firm. She currently lives in southern California with her husband and daughter where she works as a creative consultant for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.

The Pinkaboos Book Tour | Pennies & Paper Blog
Jake Gosselin completed his undergraduate degree in Anthropology at the University of Toronto before heading to New York where he finished his MFA in English and Writing at Stony Brook/Southampton College of Long Island University. He currently lives in Southern California where he works as an author, freelance writer and website producer for

And finally...who doesn't love a giveway?

The Pinkaboos Book Tour | Pennies & Paper Blog


One lucky reader will win a Kindle along with a Kindle copy of The Pinkaboos!

For a chance to win the Kindle, share your best anecdote on how your child overcame fear: Simply share in the comments how your little hero conquered their biggest fear or helped someone else conquer fear.

In addition to the Kindle, each blog on tour will be giving away 5 copies of The Pinkaboos: Bitterly and the Giant Problem just for leaving a general comment below!

Don’t forget to leave us a way to contact you if you win :)

Where to Purchase:

Connect with The Pinkaboos team:

And don't forget to follow along with the rest of the tour!

What is currently your favorite children's book? Do you consider it empowering or does it deal with overcoming fear?

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

#LinkUpTheLove Tuesday

Buttons and Birdcages
It's been far too long since I've posted one of these! My mother, when she read my previous #LinkUpTheLove post, mentioned that she said it seemed silly to write about people who might not ever see my thoughts. She is definitely not wrong--something about that seems counterintuitive. But I realized this is more for myself--knowing I'm going to write this post reminds me to be observant of others' kind actions--as well as posting some "role model" ideas for my readers. I hope you all agree and will write posts of your own!

My list this week once again reflects the fact that most of my time is spent at work or at home. I need to get out more, and meet new people to write about :D

My Weekly Love

For my dad: Last weekend he helped me start building my bed frame, so I can have storage space under my futon next year. He has also agreed to help me clean my room and thin out my room, two tasks which fill me with intense anxiety.

For my hiking buddies: Mary, my friend-from-kindergarten-turned-college-roommate, and her father have been inviting me for hikes the past few weekends. We also have plans to hike Mount Washington this coming weekend (something on my Thirty Before Thirty list!). It's just so nice to have people to explore nature with :)

For the parents of my campers who take the time to talk to me: I love learning how I can better help your kids, and I love telling you their accomplishments of the day. Thank you for recognizing all the time and energy I spend on them--it helps me remember why I work at camp on those tougher days.

For the yoga instructor: On Sunday I attended my first yoga class in ages. I used my free gym membership (thank you camp job!) and went with Mary and my mother. After so many months of not going to any yoga classes, the yoga fitness class was a great re-introduction. And to top it off, the instructor helped correct some of my poses and said my wild thing pose was beautiful, which means a lot to me!

Who would you like to extend some love to this week? 
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Monday, July 7, 2014

A Month of Instagram: June 2014

Whoever claims summer is for relaxation is wrong. Fun, certainly, but my crazy June proves that true relaxation was far out of my grasp. And it's only just beginning! Between working at camp, saying goodbye to my best friend as she goes to Uganda for the rest of the summer, attempting personal projects, and trying to find the time to take a few moments, I've been exhausted. So if I'm a bit MIA in the blogosphere--now you know why!
June Instagram | Pennies & Paper Blog

From left to right: Getting distracted from closet-cleaning and experimenting with remixes. <> One afternoon I went back to my old internship to be on a panel for the current interns. I ran into my manager, who gave me a copy of the (published!) book I had worked endlessly on--I last saw this as a manuscript :D <> My road got repaved! (Not nearly as exciting if you never lived on my so-old-it-was-purple road.) <> I've started sending (and, as in this picture, receiving) snail mail! It's so much fun :)

June Instagram | Pennies & Paper Blog

From left to right: Passing the time on my commute to my job at school. <> The start of camp! <> Cedric was a staple this month. <> Several weekends I went on hikes with family and friends--with some yoga at the top :)

I can't deny that I've been putting on good, proper blog posts. But even posting these short ones do make me feel much better, and that I've accomplished something! How was your June? What are you looking forward to in July?
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Link Up the Love Tuesday #3

Buttons and Birdcages

It's only been a few days since I last posted, but it feels like months. Camp started this week, and even though we have about 30 kids in the whole camp (when normally we have about 130) I'm still exhausted. All of the love I'm giving today is around that.

My Weekly Love:

To my dad: For getting me a rearview mirror for my bike and attaching a rack so I can a.) be safe on the days I bike to work and b.) not have to wear my backpack and arrive like a horrible sweat monster.

To my mom: For buying me vegetarian and nut-free foods so I don't starve on those eight hour shifts (ones that really feel like ten or twelve hour shifts!).

To my brother: For leaving early on a few days so I don't have to bike every day.

To my immediate family and all my friends: Thank you for letting me take several-hour naps and for letting me vent about all the crazy things that happen in camp.

Hopefully, my body will adjust soon and I'll be able to do proper blog posts again--I have so many photos and drafts sitting on my computer! Posting this one really does make me feel like a human again :)
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Movie Review: The Fault in Our Stars

About two weeks ago now, I went to go see The Fault in Our Stars with a good friend of mine. We went a few days after it came out, and the theatre was still very full, unsurprising given the $8.2 million earned Thursday night and overall $48 million made the first weekend. Also unsurprisingly, it made much more money than Tom Cruise's newest action-y thing, even though that had a budget of $178 million and TFiOS had "only" $12 million. (I was a little surprised that it did better than Maleficent.) Again unsurprisingly, I sobbed nearly the entire last thirty minutes of the movie, and a couple times before then as well.
First off, I love John Green. I have read the book this movie was based on, also titled The Fault in Our Stars, three times. I cried endlessly each time--to me the sign of a great book. I've read every John Green book; I watch Vlogbrothers; I consider myself a Nerdfighter; and I've followed the creation of this film from signing to premiere. I have quite a few thoughts about the film, although I will try very hard not to compare it to the book! I do have to say, this is one of the most faithful book-to-film adaptations I have ever seen. Be warned: minor spoilers ahead!

John Green The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is both a story of romance and survival. The two main characters, Hazel and Guz, are young people who are dealing with lives affected by cancer. After forming a friendship, romance comes soon after, but the realities of cancer are never far away.

I thought the casting, characterization, and handling of the subject matter was all very well done. The directors, writers, and producers did not shy away (much) from the realities of an illness like cancer. They show that it kills, and they show that it's not a calm, easy death. In the book, Hazel's voice is very prominent, and well-placed voiceovers helped maintain that personality. Without Hazel's voice, the film would have been rather dry and some of the best ideas from the book would have been lost. I often dislike voiceovers, but in this case the more the better!

This film is important not only in that it deals with cancer, but that it shows a teenager's experiences are just as serious as an adult's. More specifically, it brings great diversity into the realm of films aimed at teenagers. It is a film made for young adults, but these are young adults dealing with things you mostly see in stories with adult characters: wearing a cannula 24/7, having a prosthetic leg, losing eyesight. But limited mobility does not hinder the plot at all, and in fact is often integral to it, such as the scene where Hazel lugs her oxygen tank up all of the steps in the Anne Frank House (and as someone who has been in the Anne Frank House, let me tell you, those stairs are killer for a healthy person). 

I was particularly pleased with how Gus's prosthesis was handled. After introducing it when we meet Gus, it only appears in a few key scenes later on. I was worried that it would otherwise be ignored, but the actor did a wonderful job of moving like someone who actually has a prosthetic leg. My father makes prosthetic limbs, so perhaps I am a little more aware of how a fake leg moves and changes gait, but I'm happy to say that anyone seeing this film will get an accurate depiction whether they know it or not!

The few things I felt were lacking in the movie were included in the book, but I will try to not rant too much xD My primary concern was the lack of progression of Gus's illness. In the book, Hazel spends a lot of time describing how he changes, how he's less happy. We only get one major scene of Gus's illness in the movie. Granted, it is an important one and I was glad to see it kept in the film, but in hindsight it would have been a tad abrupt for someone who had not read the book, and may make his illnes seem surreal. Although, since the movie was two hours long, showing the full illness may have been a bit much! Also in relation to Gus, I was a little upset that Hazel never made the switch from calling him "Augustus" to using "Gus." John Green answered a question about this switch, noting that "Gus" was when the "manic pixie dream boy falls away and she comes to know and grapple with and love this fragile, desperate, beautiful boy," something I think is a very important distinction. My last main complaint is that, in the book, Hazel reads a letter that includes the Shakespeare quote that inspired the title, but this does not happen in the movie. With such an abstract title, I feel that would have been nice to include. There were a few other minor issues--the swing set goes mysteriously missing in the movie whereas in the book they sell it, for example--but nothing horribly distracting.

Overall, it's a great movie, made even better if you have a little more information from the book. Not everyone reads, however, and the most important and groundbreaking aspects of the book definitely make their way into the film. If you have a heart at all (and I hope you do), keep tissues on hand, because you will almost definitely cry.

Have you seen The Fault in Our Stars or read the book? What did you think?

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