pretty little recap: a bArrel of fun

5.16 Over a Barrel
One of the things I love about PLL is how, for an ABC Family show, they aren't afraid to push the boundaries of all things creepy and sometimes downright horrific. It's gonna be a while before I stop envisioning Mona sludge... let's recap!

Haleb can handle the drama. I hope. Photo credit: ABC Family

Pretty Little Highlights

1. Hot Caleb the Hacker is always amazing, but Hot Caleb the MacGyver is on a whole other level! If loving someone more because they can pick a lock with a soda can is wrong, then I don't want to be right. Is there anything this boy can't do?

2. Team Spencer and Hot Caleb. Again, I don't want to see Hot Caleb linked romantically to anyone but Hanna, but I am definitely loving the fact that we're getting to see him interact with some of the other liars in interesting ways. This particular pairing is all win when it comes to detective work, but seriously, let's keep it to that, cause I don't wanna see the love quadrangle drama/fallout that would result from a Spencer/Hot Caleb hook-up. 

3. Hanna standing up for her man! It's nice to see Hanna have a solid reason for some of the not-so-wise things she does. Who can argue with a girl driven to protect her hottie boyfriend from being framed? Hanna is often portrayed as so flighty (which we love about her) so it's nice to see her acting strong here, both with protecting Hot Caleb and dealing with her Mom (which we'll discuss below...).

4. I hesitate to include this, but okay, Copper Toby and Spencer are actually kinda cute playing Scrabble. Until they start fighting.Which I'd have been loving a year ago. Oh, this show...

Pretty Little Mistakes (a.k.a What Aria Did)

1. Said it before and will said it again, the liars need to stop committing incriminating acts in writing. Yes, Aria really shouldn't have written that letter, but am I the only one who thinks the whole receipt thing was a little too ridiculous? I mean, this show constantly knocks against the limit of suspending your disbelief, but am I really supposed to believe that A somehow hacked into what appears to be a fairly basic, probably not too customizable, cash resister and programmed it to print out that receipt at the exact moment Aria was there waiting to be devastated by it? Yeah, that's a bit of a stretch. Even for PLL.

2. Okay, let's talk about the adulterous elephant in the room. Pastor Ted is back. Did you guys conveniently forget about him too? Cause I definitely did when Ashley and Jason hooked up last week, but yeah, now we're in a bit of a mess. Ashley, what were you thinking? I realized this week that she and Hanna have a bit of a Lorelai-Rory dynamic going on sometimes--except that Hanna has very little in common with Rory and Ashley isn't nearly as funny as Lorelai. Cause there's nothing funny about cheating on your boyfriend and then keeping him dangling on the line after he proposes, Ashley. Nothing funny about that at all.

3. I like Emily, I really do, but her storylines are sometimes the worst. This new chick at The Brew is beyond weird, which isn't helping Emily's case, but can we please get Emily back into an interesting storyline? We finally got rid of Paige (at least for now), so now is the time for her to get out there and do something exciting! Please, PLL, give her some juicy secret from her past or SOMETHING.

4. Why are the liars continuing to assume Ali is behind everything when she'd clearly be so limited from prison? At the very lease they should be assuming she has a network of people doing her dirty work for her, and in that case, why aren't they doing more to track these people down? Hacking into cash registers? Planting incriminating evidence? If Ali is doing all this from prison, the correctional facility she's in really needs to tighten their restrictions... 

5. Johnny. Yeah, what's up with that dude. I don't know what else to say about him yet--but was he hitting on Spencer? I don't like assuming that any opposite-sex pairing on this show (or same-sex in Emily's case) spells potential love interest, but that's how these shows seem to always go. I see Spencer with Hot Caleb and I think, "hells no!"I see Spencer with Johnny and I think, "what is going on here?" So yeah, what is going on here, Johnny? I don't trust you and your delightful homemade paints!

Pretty Little ZOMG WTF?!

1. Okay, that scene in the storage locker was tense. I could immediately tell the hazmat suit was empty, but Tyler Blackburn's delivery of the line about there being someone in there with them had me convinced there was someone there. Maybe it's just that part of my brain that convinces me someone is chasing me up the basement stairs at night, or is looking back in at me through a darkened window (ahh!), but the whole "there's someone inside the house!" thing totally freaks me out every time. Well played, PLL

2. Is Mona in the barrel? I don't know if I believe it.  Or maybe I just don't want to, but I know PLL would go there. "Should we open it?" No. No, you don't open barrels that might have sludge bodies in them. How would anybody be better off if you did that? Thankfully, Spencer and Hot Caleb, private eyes, decided to leave the barrel as is, but reporting it to the police is starting to not look like an option because...

3. The storage locker is in Hanna's name. And based on her reaction, she had nothing to do with it (which, I think we knew). Another plot by A to frame the liars? Or something else entirely? The safeguards on Mona's laptop have me wondering what else Miss Vanderwaal set up prior to her death. I have a feeling we're going to be hearing from Mona from beyond the grave for a while to come...


pretty little recap: i guess they rAn out of stuffing...

5.15 Fresh Meat
This week's episode flew by. Lots of action and lots to talk about! Plus, a major nickname change has finally happened..... 

It was never my intention to like you, Toby... but ah geez... Photo credit: ABC Family

Pretty Little Highlights 

1. Copper Toby. That's right, he's officially made the jump from Creeper. What can I say? I dig that Toby has a semi-noble purpose now. Plus, the guy gets points anytime he's in a BFF scene with Hot Caleb. He's tipped the scale...for now. Don't do anything creepy, Toby. I've got my eye on you.

2. "You're a really good liar." Heh. I love little nods like that. But what is up with this new Johnny dude who will be conveniently renting Melissa's old room? I'm immediately suspicious. Besides, didn't The OC teach us to not trust randos named Johnny? 

3. Lots of Hot Caleb time. Even if he is messed up in this murder weapon business (see below), I love it when Hot Caleb gets involved in the main plot instead of just being Hanna's main squeeze (not that I mind him being TV's hottest boyfriend either). Much like his scenes with Aria last week, I totally dug his scenes with Spencer and Copper Toby. Hot Caleb has good chemistry with anyone. I probably shouldn't be surprised.

Pretty Little Mistakes (a.k.a What Aria Did)

1. Okay, let's talk murder weapons. Obviously, there's whats right, and then there's what's best for the liars (and the plot!), but any plan that puts Hot Caleb's life in danger is not good in my books! Hot Caleb is not meant to be a literal! Also, how long can the liars possibly go on messing with evidence before they get into serious trouble?

2. Emilly randomly deciding to be a catering business. What a strange plotline. One minute she's convincing Ezra to let her do it and the next she's in the kitchen surrounded by vegetables. Am I the only one who is picturing the missing scene of her at the grocery store just throwing everything she sees into the cart with no plan as to what she's actually going to cook? And then she acts all hard done by. And then all offended. Are we supposed to be on Emily's side with this? Because I'm not. She's being a total B. And Paige is so not worth it.  

3. Aria's letter to Jackie, the super convenient admissions board member. Aria has been doing pretty decently in my books lately, but this college stuff is making her crazy. I get it, she's freaked, but desperation rarely leads to wise decisions and this one was downright stupid. Why haven't the liars collectively learned that anything they write down can and will be used against them in a court of A? How many times does that have to happen before they get it??

4. Spencer and Copper Toby fighting. I wasn't sure where to put this. Previously, when Copper Toby was still Creeper Toby, it definitely would have been a pretty little highlight, but now that's he's made the transformation to Copper Toby? He's a lot worthier of Spencer's time and affection than he was before. So stop fighting guys, okay?   

Pretty Little ZOMG WTF?!

1. Stuffed animals filled with...meat? Need I say more? What is even happening here? Why does the most effed up stuff always happen to Hanna when she's alone? In related news, all of the liars should definitely be in therapy. 

2. Jason and Ashley WHAT??? Granted, I started to get vibes early on in the episode, but really, who can say they saw this coming? Clearly not Hanna. 

P.S. I'm still 100% convinced that Ali didn't kill Mona and isn't A. I highly doubt anyone out there buys that theory, especially after she received that note in her OrangeistheNewBlack jumpsuit.


the writer's arsenal: bookmark these now, thank me later

I've talked a lot about the importance of getting yourself organized when you're setting out to write a book and today I want to give a shoutout to the top five tools I personally use and have come to rely on during my writing process (all of which I'm recommending of my own free will--no product placements here, folks!).


Oh, Trello. There are days when I still can't believe you're real. I've tried a lot--A LOT--of different outlining tools over the years. I don't think I could ever possibly list them all. But none have met my needs the way Trello has. It allows you to create these things called Trello boards, which are basically giant bulletin boards where you can pin cards under different columns. I used to only use it for laying out chapter breakdowns, but now I use it for everything. Cause why not? It's so much easier when you have everything you need in one place. I create a board for each book I'm working on, then within the board, I create character lists, chapter breakdowns, a place for snippets of text (cause sometimes you think of perfect dialogue before you've written a scene), and any other things I need to keep handy (locations, facts, timelines, continuity checks, etc). I also use it for new book ideas, marketing ideas, home renovation projects (yes, that is unrelated, but that's just how diverse this tool is! I can even share the home reno stuff with the husband so we can collab on it together!)

Here's a pared down sample of what my story boards look like:

So yeah, it's awesome. Plus, once you set up an account, you can use it via your web browser, your phone, or your tablet (it's even on Kindle!) and everything syncs seamlessly. Oh, and it's free! They do have a paid service called Trello Gold, which I'm sure is a really powerful tool for businesses that require lots of people to collaborate on massive projects, but for writers who want a space to map out their thoughts, the free version is all you need.


I'm not using Werdsmith as much these days now that I've migrated almost everything to Trello, but sometimes I still want a space where I can do some writing on the fly. For me, Werdsmith has risen above the rest when it comes to writing apps because it's clean, simple, and it works. I can write something on my iPhone while out shopping (cause sometimes you think of brilliant plot twists in the middle of the cereal aisle) and it's there on my iPad when I get home. A few extras that put this app above the rest include word count goals and an idea-to-project-based structure that makes Werdsmith a good place to brainstorm and then run with your brilliance when you're ready.


Don't even try to tell me you don't use more than one cloud service. I know you do. We all do. Sometimes because it's forced upon us (Google, Apple, etc) and sometimes because we want to stick to the free version of each and then run out of space. And that's not even to mention that some cloud services just plain old function differently than others, and meet certain needs better than others. If that sounds even remotely familiar than you should probably start using Multcloud, an online tool that lets you manage all most of your cloud services in one place. Need to move files from one cloud to another? Multcloud makes that super easy. Want to backup your novel to more than once location? Save it to one of your cloud services and then easily drop copies anywhere you want to keep a backup.


There isn't much to say about this website beyond the fact that it provides really good creative white noise. Do you enjoy working to the dull roar of a busy coffee house? Are you inspired by the sound of rain and gentle thunder? Rainy Cafe provides either (or both at the same time!). If you, like me, concentrate better with a little something to block out your actual environment (and find music only helps when you're writing certain scenes), then Rainy Cafe is probably the answer to your concentration woes. Check it out.


Yes, I know I've already covered cloud storage with my shoutout to Multcloud, but I have to give an honourable mention to Tresorit, which I've mentioned before, because unlike the cloud services you can sync with Multcloud, Tresorit is super secure cloud storage done right. I like to keep anything I consider to be highly sensitive material in Tresorit, including an extra backup of each of my novels. It has fantastic encryption and is perfect for those files you really want to lock up tight. Just don't forget your password. Just kidding. I think there's way to deal with that... I think.

So there they are--my top five writing tools! Do you have any specific tools/resources you've come to depend on during your writing (or working) process? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

pretty little recap: the glass is dArker on the other side

5.14 Through A Glass, Darkly
A Very Vanderwaal Funeral. Photo credit: ABC Family
It really hasn't been that long thanks to that wicked fun Christmas special, but PLL is back for season 5B and I am super stoked about its return! I love the way this show breaks up its seasons. The hiatus never feels too long and whenever a half season starts up, I always get this feeling of, "More new episodes already? HOORAY!" It's also kind of necessary because let's face it, the more tangled the lies get, the more complicated the backstories, the more none of us would be able to remotely remember what's going on if there were really long breaks between half seasons.

Pretty Little Highlights 

1. Mrs. Mona's Mom freaking out on Ali and smacking her good. Yeah, I don't buy into the idea that Ali killed Mona cause that would be too easy, but I do think Ali needed a good smack so win?

2. Creeper Toby as a cop. I never thought the day would come when I could get behind anything Creeper Toby, but I actually kinda dig him as a cop. Maybe it's the uniform and haircut. But probably it's just the fact that the liars finally have someone "on the inside". Regardless, I'm this close to calling him Copper Toby instead of Creeper Toby. But let's not get ahead of ourselves..  

3. Hot Caleb and Aria: The Master and The Hot Mess. I have no good reason to like this pair together (not like, together together, cause team Haleb all the way), but Aria as Hot Caleb's hacker apprentice is actually kind of amusing. It's entirely possible this was a one-off scene, but with Aria asking for Hot Caleb's help regarding college rejections, it sounds like a B-plot to me!

4. The charges against Spencer being dropped. Thank goodness that's over. I'm not a huge fan of storylines I definitely know aren't going to play out for the worst. It feels like a waste of time. Spencer was never going to actually go down for murder. (Ali probably won't either, but there's at least a better chance of something bad happening to her than to Spence.)

5. "They don't allow fireworks in prison." Classic Hanna. Welcome back.

Pretty Little Mistakes (a.k.a What Aria Did)

1. Bringing in Old Lady Ravenswood. Hanna, I know you don't always make the best choices, but come on, that woman isn't even secretly creepy. She's full-on, outwardly going-to-get-you-abducted-by-a-religious-cult creepy. I know you're desperate to find out what really happened to Mona, but how about some good old fashioned liar-style detective work?

2. Emily's plan to leave Ali's hair at the crime scene to save Spencer. Em, your heart is in the right place, but your plan is terrible. And illegal. Kids, just say no to planting evidence. 

3. Aria not even trying to fight back against A and his/her nail gun. If your life is on the line, you don't just say, "please don't do this", you struggle and try your damnedest to escape. You kinda deserve to die, Aria. Plus, did I miss something or was there no follow-up to this scene? 

4. Em and Paige. I'm so bored with this couple. How many times have they sat around being sad together? I'm over it. Can we please move on? Em deserves better.

5. Ali not just darting around the liars' blockade while trying to escape. They're not a brick wall, Ali. Put a little more effort into your getaway next time.

Pretty Little ZOMG WTF?!

1. Is it just me or does Jason look really different now? (And I don't mean different actor different.) Jason's hair is still super pouffy--classic J-pouf--but something (the facial hair?) about his face looked totally off to me. Like, beyond the facial hair. I didn't recognize him at first. Maybe he just looks older? I just don't know. 

2. The video of Mona being attacked. Again, I don't think it's Ali on the tape, even if her alibi isn't real, but it's still brutal to watch cause it's Mona and we love/hated her. 

3. Ali actually being arrested for Mona's murder. This isn't really that much of a ZOMG WTF moment cause I think we all know she'll be out in no time, but I'm a little surprised the show went there during the first episode back. Are we going to get an Orange is the New Black-esque storyline this season? :)

4. Mike having emotions. Could Aria Jr. actually be evolving into a multi-dimensional character with... feelings? Colour me shocked.

Bring on the new season!


plans, both master and fledgling

Photo credit:

I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions--at least not in the traditional, eat whatever you want in December cause the diet starts in January sense. I think they set us up to fail more often than not. And who needs to start the year off feeling like they've failed before the snow even melts? Part of the problem with sudden, all-in resolutions is that most people can't make real changes in their lives simply because some (kinda arbitrary) date rolls around. We don't switch on like that.

With that in mind, I do understand the appeal in using the new year to set goals. I just think it's wise to keep some perspective. If you use the new year to organize the goals you've already been thinking about and working toward, you'll be more likely to accomplish something.

I have some baby weight to lose, but realistically, I'm not going to join a gym. First off, I hate gyms. But even if I didn't, I don't have time for them in my life. So what then? Am I going to get up and go for a run every morning? In an ideal world, I would. But no, it's freezing cold winter. And I have a nursing baby at home. It's not realistic. So then what about eating healthier? That's something I can do. But it would be ridiculous to pledge to eat only healthy food from here on out. Diets like that always fail. I know that. And I enjoy unhealthy foods too much to do that. So instead, I'm taking small steps to work toward eating healthier on a regular basis. Less takeout, more home-cooked meals. I love cooking and now that Baby H is sleeping more, I have a lot more capacity to manage it. So as far as that goes, I resolve to take the baby steps I need to take to start eating more healthy, home-cooked meals on a regular basis. I know for me, the key to doing that is actually quite simple--I need to make a meal plan for every week, one that allows for occasional takeout meals and treats, but primarily focusses on eating healthy, home-cooked meals and ensuring I have the ingredients on hand to do so. It isn't a huge change. It doesn't require a ton of effort like going to the gym or forcing myself to count calories would. But it's enough of a change that over time, it'll start to make a difference. And that's good enough for me.

I've talked about the usefulness of getting organized while writing before and I can't help but make the comparison now. Life changes, like writing books, aren't sprints. They take time. We need to prep our brains for them, ease into them. Sometimes we're super keen (daily word count surpassed!) and sometimes we're lagging (feeling uninspired and Netflixy, which yes, I've decided is an adjective), but the key is to keep going at a pace we can manage. That's not to say you shouldn't push yourself from time to time. Realistically, I may only finish writing one book in 2015, but that doesn't mean I won't try to write two, maybe even three. I just won't set that as a hard, punish myself if I don't achieve it goal. It's an ambition, not a resolution.

So what other plans do I have for 2015? Well, aside from meal planning and writing (cause, of course there will be writing!), I am going to keep going on a goal I started a few years back (with the birth of Baby E), slowly cleansing our home of chemical products and unnecessary clutter. I recently discovered an awesome organic grocery store nearby and I plan to start buying more produce and other products from there (knowing I'll still rely on my old grocery store for a lot of things), and while I've removed almost all chemical cleaners/detergents/etc from our home, I still have some work to do with regards to switching to better personal care products, make-up, etc.

So yeah, those are my goals for the year--well, those and keeping my family healthy and happy. But that's just business as usual :)

What are your goals for 2015? Do you like to make hard and fast resolutions or do you prefer to use this time of year for more achievable planning?

If you're like me and want to make some changes to the products you use in your home, I highly recommend you check out the products you're currently using via the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep searchable database. I've been using it to chose better products for a few months now and it's really making a difference.

Happy New Year!!