Mystery Serials

Action Men with Duct Tape, Serial, Part 1

This is a Jack Donegal Mystery, in the same series with Action Men with Silly Putty and Action Men and the Great Zarelda.

This post features a couple of different Amazon affiliate links, so, if you are inspired by the fashion of the fictional Bronwyn, click away.

Part 1

Image by Pixabay


“So, what do you think, Uncle Andy?” Bronwyn Byrne, my “niece” only by my close brotherly association with her actual Uncle Jack, stepped out of the dressing room, held her arms out and twirled around.  

I sighed, expressing relief. “Ah. It’s fine.” I’d seen plenty of “Nos” on this shopping trip – the skintight leggings, the too-short skirts, some darkly themed band T-shirts of questionable taste. The outfit she was wearing with the pink shirt bedecked with cupcakes and sprinkles was something to which I could say “Yes.” This was how little girls should look, all pink with cotton candy and unicorns and glitter.

“It’s fine? Just fine?” She drooped her arms down to her sides.

  Somehow, the girl had translated “fine” as “barely passable.” “Yeah … right. I mean it’s … cute.”   “It’s cute?” She groaned. “In other words, I look like I’m seven.”  

“Nah. Nah. You look your age. You look like a cute …” I was not good at this. I’ve never been a dad, and here I was acting in the role of one. I was out of my element, standing here with my arms loaded with pastel-colored shopping bags, not to mention Bronwyn’s little purse, covered in emojis, dangling from my elbow … not exactly the manliest of accessories.

“Where’s Uncle Jack?”  

That was a very good question. Why couldn’t Jack be here to handle these delicate girly issues with his own niece? “He got an important phone call on his cell about the event tomorrow, so he went to look for a quiet place to talk. When he’s done there, he’ll probably check on your brother at the Best Buy.”  

I turned myself around, Bronwyn’s little purse swinging like a flag in tribute to my manliness. I spotted a boy, around 12, skulking in a corner behind a clothes rack with his Nintendo DS, probably the unfortunate brother of a shopper in this girly store.

Image from Pixabay

“Hey kid,” I said. “Come here.”   He looked up and lifted an eyebrow.   “I need a man’s opinion.” This seemed to get his attention. I hoped Bronwyn would appreciate the opinion of a boy her age. She was already starting to notice members of the opposite sex.

When the kid approached, I put my hands on his shoulders and pointed him in Bronwyn’s direction. “See there? That’s my niece. Her outfit shows good taste, right? It’s cool, hip, da bomb … Is da bomb still a phrase?”  

“Uh … That would be a no,” said the kid. I noticed he refrained from rolling his eyes at me … unlike Bronwyn.  

“Well,” I said. “The outfit. She needs some affirmation. She looks good, right?”  

The kid was now giving me a nervous side eye. “Uh … yes?” The boy either had a young person’s habit of ending every phrase as a question or he was terrified of disagreeing with me or maybe afraid of agreeing with me too much.

Image from Pixabay

He shrugged a single shoulder. “Sure. Whatevs. It’s cool … for her.” He said this as if he wanted me to be sure he wouldn’t wear it himself.

A little while later, I met Bronwyn in her regular clothes, the trial outfit draped over her arm. She spoke to me through her teeth. “Can you get any more embarrassing?”  

“Uh … do you really want to know the answer to that question?”  

“Probably not.” Her comment was accompanied by another eye roll.  

“So, you’re not taking it?” I asked, pointing to the pile on her arm.  

“No, I’m taking it,” she said.   Moments later, we were hitting the halls of the mall, and I was relieved of half of the baggage. Walking along the halls and the crowd, a thought came to me. Maybe the thought came to me out of boredom from shopping at Girly Outfitters and Forever 13 or maybe my blood sugar was dropping and addled my brain. My nose was picking up aromas of Cinnabon and freshly baked cookies, but, up to this moment, I had refrained from indulging. I decided this was a good time to hone her self defense skills.  

Image from Pixabay

I steered Bronwyn away from the main mall traffic. “Hey,” I said. “Check out the mannequins.” I directed her towards a side entryway, sandwiched between Old Navy and another tween girl’s paradise. The mannequins in the window display were set up like a step by step dance tutorial. I was beginning to think like Jack, imagining photos from the line-up, left to right, put together into an action flipbook.   Bronwyn stood mesmerized, and then came the sneak attack.

Image by Pixabay
So, not exactly like a dance tutorial here … but you get the idea. 🙂

I slinked up behind her and seized her around the middle, pinning her arms. “Now, suppose I’m a bad guy,” I said, “what do you do now?” We’d gone through this exercise a few times back at our apartment. This was the first time I’d attempted it in public. Looking to my left and spying a mall cop giving me the stare down, I surmised it was probably my last time doing this in public.   Mr. Mall Cop Guy was glaring at me as if I were Ted Bundy.

“I’m her uncle,” I said, loosening my grip on Bronwyn’s waist. Biologically speaking, this wasn’t the strict truth, but, emotionally speaking, it was. “I was impersonating a bad guy and – apparently – doing too good a job of it.”   Mr. Mall Cop Guy looked from me to Bronwyn and back again, perhaps looking for a sign that she was okay or that I was telling the truth. I pointed to him. “You, Sir, are doing an excellent job of protecting young girls from creeps like me … well, no, not literally creeps like me … creeps like the bad guy I was impersonating. I, for one, salute you.”  

Image from Pixabay

I put out my arm for a fist bump, and he took a couple of steps back.   “Aw, c’mon. I didn’t swing at you. If I wanted to swing at you, I’d do a better job than that.” This was my day to stick my foot in my mouth over and over again. I was going to have to head over to Starbucks for one of those frappuccino things to wash out the taste of foot. “Not that I’m in the habit of taking a swing at fine upstanding security personnel.”  

Image from Pixabay

Bronwyn reached over and gave me a squeeze around the middle. “Uncle Andy is completely harmless,” she told Mr. Mall Cop Guy.   “I am not completely harmless …” Just like Bronwyn had understood “cute” as babyish, I understood “harmless” as milquetoast. Then, I looked at Mr. Mall Cop Guy and thought I’d better change my phraseology. “Except to kids. I’m harmless to kids.” I gave Bronwyn a firm pat between the shoulder blades and rubbed my knuckles into her scalp.  

Mr. Mall Cop Guy shrugged and shook his head in a way that made me think he was still assured that I was a weirdo but just of the “harmless” variety.

To Be Continued …

© 2018 Susan Joy Clark

10 Fun Indoor Things To Do When You’re On a Budget

Here are some ideas of fun, inexpensive indoor things you can do even in the cold, winter months.

This post has Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through links, you may help me get a little commission. There may also be one other shameless plug in this post as well as a freebie game sheet to download. These are all fun things which I honestly recommend.

  1. Have a board game night.

Photo by Robert Coelho on Unsplash

Board game nights can be loads of fun, and they provide inexpensive entertainment. You can supply all the games yourself or have friends bring their own games. If you do the second, you’ll soon find you have a lot of varied choices.

One of my favorite board games is Cranium. It has a little mix of everything: knowledge/trivia questions, word-related challenges such as spelling backwards, a little bit of Charades, Name That Tune, Pictionary and Sculptionary. You can see the slogan on the box reads, “Everyone shines,” because there is a challenge to suit everyone in this game.

Amazon Prime members can get the game for $14.99. Check out the image link below.

What I have noticed with this game is that, if you don’t happen to like all of the categories like I do, certain players will have a strong preference for one or two of them. Some introverts may feel uncomfortable with humming or acting. This is a team effort game, and it works best when you arrange the teams so that they’re made up of people with differing talents and personalities.

I’ve also recently been introduced to the card game Blink, a fast-moving game that has elements similar to Uno and Dutch Blitz. I reviewed it here. Check out the image link below. It’s $7.73 for Amazon Prime members.

2. Have a movie night at home.


Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

You can pop popcorn or serve classic movie snacks like Goobers and Raisinets. You’ll still save money over movie theater snacks. You can even get creative to make your snacks fit the movie theme. Watching Jaws? How about some gummy sharks? Watching a mystery? How about some “red herrings,” aka Swedish Fish?

You can theme your snacks around an ethnic cuisine style that fits the setting or culture in the movie. (If you don’t cook or don’t feel like cooking, you can find a lot of frozen appetizers in the grocery store.) Try samosas with Slumdog Millionaire, spanakopita (little spinach pies) with My Big Fat Greek Wedding or antipasto with The Godfather.

Sometimes, with any group of people, it’s hard to find a movie that everyone will like. Here’s a suggestion. Charade stars two of my favorite Old Hollywood actors, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, and features adventure, romance, comedy and a really perplexing mystery. I thought, for the longest time, it was a Hitchcock movie. It’s not, but it’s in Hitchcock’s style. The DVD is $9.96 with Amazon Prime and is also available for streaming with Amazon Prime Video.

3. Have a mystery party night.


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You may think that hosting a mystery party is an ambitious undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It is up to you and your group of friends how elaborate you want to be with costumes and props. You can have minimal or even no costumes at all and still have fun sleuthing and puzzling. You can download my humorous “Chocolate Bomb Cake” Mystery Party Game Kit for $10 here. It has been friend-tested and approved.

My test group of friends used little to no special costumes and still had fun. Most clue items are included in the kit. Others are objects you can find around the house or a firecracker prop you can put together using a toilet paper tube. (Craft instructions are included.)

4. Meet up at the local coffee shop.


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Great coffee and conversation might be fun enough by itself, but some independent coffee shops are supporters of the arts and host a variety of interesting activities. Independent coffee shops in my area are a meeting space for book clubs and host local author events. They also display paintings or photos from local artists and host free concerts from bands and musicians in the area. If you attend some of these things, you will have fun and also be a supporter of the arts yourself. They may even host Open Mic nights which you can enjoy as a spectator, or, if bold enough, share your own talents.

5. Check out events at public libraries in your area.


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Many public libraries have similar offerings to those mentioned above. You might expect a library to have literary activities like book clubs and author events, but many offer a variety of activities which are not directly literary. They may have movie showings for adults and kids, concerts of all sorts, art exhibits and many other artsy, cultural and educational activities, all free to the public. In the past, I have enjoyed a classical piano concert, informal opera performances, a classic rock concert, a Shakespeare play and even an educational presentation from a woman who impersonated Eleanor Roosevelt. While not all of these choices might appeal to you or your particular group of friends, you never know what you might find. Check out the schedule for library activities in the newspaper or on library websites.

6. Go on a historical house tour.


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Old houses have wonderful architecture and often have interesting stories behind them. Friends and I have enjoyed historical home tours in our own county in northern New Jersey or at New Jersey shore towns like Ocean Grove and Cape May. Homes like this might not be accessible at any given time you may be looking for something to do, but keep your eyes peeled at your local events calendar. They may have free open houses from time to time as well as special events that might include musicians, historical reenactments or other creative possibilities.

7. Go to a school play or concert.


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So, going to a school play isn’t quite the same as seeing a play on Broadway or at a professional arts center near you. Still, high school and college students have talents to exhibit, and you don’t have to be a student or a parent of a student to enjoy these kinds of events. Show your support for budding artists and have fun while saving up for more big-time tickets.

8. Go antiquing, thrift shopping, flea marketing or just plain window shopping.


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Antiquing might seem to be an expensive hobby, but, what I’ve found, is that many antique shops sell vintage collectibles that are less than one hundred years old and are somewhat affordable. It really depends on the particular shop however.

I love visiting antique shops but have yet to buy an antique. I tend to treat the experience like visiting a museum where I’m just enjoying seeing interesting items on display. If you can enjoy “just looking,” this is certainly an inexpensive entertainment. It also might be possible to find an interesting item that won’t break the bank.

10. Have a digital scavenger hunt at the mall.


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You might know what a scavenger hunt is. You look to find a particular list of items and collect them. A digital scavenger hunt involves taking digital photos of the items instead of collecting them. Below is a free download for a list of scavenger hunt items which you can find in the mall to photograph.

Print a copy of the list for all participants. Break up into teams and race to the finish. You might even creatively present and compare the photos later.

If you enjoyed this post and are a Pinterest user, please share the graphic below to Pinterest.

Bible Conversation Hearts Puzzle Game For Kids

Valentine’s Day may be past, but it is still February and you may possibly have an opportunity to pick up some discounted Valentine’s candy or just happen to have some left over. Here’s an activity you can do using conversation hearts that has a message about God’s love. You can do this with your kids at home or with children at Sunday school, children’s church, AWANA or Olympians. I’ve included the activity as a free printable download.


Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

It’s a fill in the blanks puzzle using conversation heart candies where each of the answers corresponds with a conversation heart message. This was designed specifically for the Sweet Tarts brand candy hearts and the eight possible messages that they have: Cutie, XOXO, Love You, I Love You, Yes, Maybe, Kiss Me or Hug Me. It may seem strange that those particular phrases can fit into a Bible game, but you will see.

You may be able to sort through candies of a different brand and find ones with these phrases or even create little paper heart tokens with the phrases.

I will post the fill in the blank puzzle below in full. Scroll down to the bottom to download puzzle and answer key in PDF format.

Have children sit around a table. Give each child a copy of the puzzle sheet. Put a bowl of the Sweet Tart candies into the center of the table and some small paper plates by each child so they can take a handful of candy hearts to sort through. Have children race to put the candy hearts on the puzzle papers into the appropriate blanks.

Acknowledge the child who is first to put the hearts in the correct places. You will want to read the paragraphs aloud and possibly look up some of the Scripture references. You could even do a Bible Sword Drill activity with them. If you do this activity at church, give children little bags of candy hearts to take home.

Before you begin the game, explain a few things to the children.

  1. Some candy hearts have several words on them. There will be a blank for each word, so “I love you” will be ____ _____ _____ and XOXO will be _____ _____ ____ _____.
  2. Some phrases are repeated, so there isn’t just one of each phrase in the puzzle.
  3. Be sure to look out for punctuation. The first sentence ends with three blanks followed by a period. Then, there is another blank, the start of a new sentence, followed by a comma.

God’s Valentine

Phrases:
Cutie, XOXO, Love You, I Love You, Yes, Maybe, Kiss Me or Hug Me

God ______ (s) ________ . _____, He does. He says so many times in the Bible such as in John 3:16. Reading certain parts of the Bible is like reading a Valentine from God and getting a big __ _______ ____ from Him. I may not feel him ______ ______ or _______ ________, but I know He loves me and you too. He shows His love and care for us in other ways, by protecting us from harm, providing for our needs, answering our prayers, comforting us and giving us peace and joy in times of trouble.

Abraham thought Sarah was a __________. The Bible says she was very beautiful. God thinks you’re a ________ too. You were made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalms 139:14)

Sometimes, people let us down and leave us in doubt about whether they care for us or not, and, sometimes, leave us in no doubt that they don’t care. There is no _______ about God’s love for us. God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3) He loves us in spite of our imperfections and sin and even before we believed in Him. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:35-39)

God wants us to love others too that our joy might be full! (John 15:11) This includes our friends, our family and others. You may not often say “___ _____ _____” to everyone, but say a quick “_____ _____” to your mom, and she will love it. If you give her some ___ ___ ___ ___, she’ll like it even better.

A person might sign a Valentine, “_____ _____” or “___ ______ _____” or even “_____ _____ _____ ____.” Some of Jesus’ last words on earth were to encourage us to tell others about Him, and in that way, we share His love with others.

Answer Key

God love (s) you . Yes, He does. He says so many times in the Bible such as in John 3:16. Reading certain parts of the Bible is like reading a Valentine from God and getting a big I love you from Him. I may not feel him hug me (kiss me also acceptable) or kiss me (hug me also acceptable), but I know He loves me and you too. He shows His love and care for us in other ways, by protecting us from harm, providing for our needs, answering our prayers, comforting us and giving us peace and joy in times of trouble.

Abraham thought Sarah was a cutie. The Bible says she was very beautiful. God thinks you’re a cutie too. You were made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalms 139:14)

Sometimes, people let us down and leave us in doubt about whether they care for us or not, and, sometimes, leave us in no doubt that they don’t care. There is no maybe about God’s love for us. God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3) He loves us in spite of our imperfections and sin and even before we believed in Him. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:35-39)

God wants us to love others too that our joy might be full! (John 15:11) This includes our friends, our family and others. You may not often say “I love you” to everyone, but say a quick “Love you” to your mom, and she will love it. If you give her some XOXO, she’ll like it even better.

A person might sign a Valentine, “Love you” or “I love you” or even “XOXO.” Some of Jesus’ last words on earth were to encourage us to tell others about Him, and in that way, we share His love with others.

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

17 Quotes on Love and Friendship for Valentine’s Day


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1. “There is nothing I would not do for those who are truly my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves. It is not in my nature.” — Jane Austen


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2. “Close friends are truly life’s treasures. Sometimes, they know us better than we know ourselves. With gentle honesty, they are there to guide us and support us, to share our laughter and our tears. Their presence reminds us that we are never truly alone.” — Vincent Van Gogh


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3. “Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you may hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.” — Alan Cohen


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4. “The beginning of love is to let those we love be completely themselves and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” — Thomas Merton


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5. “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” — C.S. Lewis


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6. “Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung, and possibly be broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the coffin or casket of your selfishness, but in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable… To love at all is to be vulnerable.” — C.S. Lewis


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7. “You don’t love someone for their looks or their clothes or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.” — Oscar Wilde


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8. “So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.” — Sylvia Plath


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9. “The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws. That’s just the way it is. That’s why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake. Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient and kind; love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice. It is seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship.” — The Great Kamryn


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10. “If we love someone, but do not love God, we demand total perfection and righteousness from that person, and when we do not get it, we become cruel and vindictive; yet we are demanding of a human being something which he or she can not possibly give. There is only one Being who can completely satisfy to the depth of the hurting human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.” — Oswald Chambers


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11. “I don’t know any perfect people, only really, really flawed people, who are still worth loving.” — John Green


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“They say love is blind. I disagree. Infatuation is blind; love is all-seeing and accepting. Love is seeing all the flaws and blemishes and accepting them. Love is accepting the bad habits and mannerisms and working around them. Love is seeing all the fears and insecurities and knowing your role is to comfort. Love is working through all the challenges and painful times. Infatuation is fragile and will shatter when life is not perfect. Love is strong, and it strengthens because it is real.” — Unknown


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13. “There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” — Charles Dickens


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14. “A five-year-old asked his friend: ‘What’s friendship?’ He replied, ‘Friendship is when you steal my chocolates every day, and I still keep them in the same place.'” — Unknown


15. “I find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest versions of themselves.” — Dr. Steve Maraboli


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16. “When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of ‘Me too!,’ be sure to cherish them, because those weirdos are your tribe.” — Unknown


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17. “If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance and care.” — Marvin Ashton

Get To Know Me Tag

Here are some interesting questions I’ve answered to help you get to know more about me. I found most of these questions from other lists online. If you like, you can try and answer these questions for yourself.

  1. What is your favorite childhood memory?

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I have a few, but some of these I have discussed in other blog posts (if not this blog site.) One Christmas memory stands out from when I was a junior higher. The youngest of my older brothers, Dan, was a college student at the time. I took a metal shop class that year and gave him a personalized desk organizer I had made in metal shop as a Christmas gift. I also got very creative with the letter I attached to it, supposedly a letter from Santa. It started out something like this, “Mrs. Claus, the reindeer and I have had a conference, and we decided that you deserve this.” Then, I proceeded to list his sins which included smacking his little sister on the behind and singing punk songs like “Smash Your Face.” Dan is the clown of the family, and the “Smash Your Face” song was his self-penned funny response to “Bang Your Head.” He read the letter out loud to the family and laughed until he cried.

2. Have you ever been to Europe?


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Yes, I spent the summer between my junior and senior years of college teaching English in Debrecen, Hungary. That trip also included a little weekend in Vienna, Austria. The next summer, I taught English for three months in Riga, Latvia and also enjoyed a little weekend in Tallinn, Estonia. At the end of that summer, I spent a week traveling to different cities in western Europe, including Paris, a town in Normandy Beach, London, Brussels and Bruges, Belgium and Bruhl, Germany.

3. Who is your favorite male YouTuber?

I like several, but I’ll say Brian Hull, because I’d really like to share his fun stuff with you. Brian is a voice impressionist who does impressions of characters from Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks and such. He even has some videos where he does his impressions at Disneyland or Universal Studios while conversing with the characters.

Other YouTubers I like are Caleb Hyles who sings Disney, Broadway and other fun things, Julien Neel who makes multi-tracking acapella videos where he sings all four parts, and some other crazy guys like Dude Perfect, who do all kinds of trick shots, Crazy Russian Hacker and Mark Rober who does crazy science experiments.

4. Who is your favorite female YouTuber?

I really enjoy Malinda Kathleen Reese and her Google Translate videos. In her videos, she sings songs that have been translated back and forth in multiple languages with hilarious Mad Lib style results. Here, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” which was a bit sexual, becomes an innocent song about a nerd who just likes geometry and biology. There are a few random references to “loins” though. Watch for the “gradually watermelon” part, which became a catchphrase for her T-shirt merch.

I also enjoy Bailey Pelkman, a sweet singer who sings covers of many popular songs and some others who have been mentioned in previous posts such as Erutan, a medieval/Celtic style singer, the Mona Lisa Twins and Harp Twins.

5. Who is your favorite stand-up comedian?

Brother Dan introduced me to the genius of this crazy comedian, Tim Hawkins. He has hilarious but clean comedy, and I think I have probably seen all of his videos. In this short clip, he explains the differences between boys and girls.

One fun thing about Tim Hawkins is that he incorporates a lot of music in his acts. He plays guitar, does a bunch of song parodies and is pretty good at impersonating different singers and their voices and styles. Here, he sings a song perfect for coffee lovers.

6. Which sport is your favorite?


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This is an interesting one. I like watching Olympic sports, and I’m probably like a lot of other women when I say that my favorite Olympic sports are gymnastics and figure skating. I guess I like “pretty” sports including some that have been debated as to whether they are even sports at all, such as cheerleading and synchronized swimming. I seem to like ones that are visually interesting and have some sort of acrobatic element to them, so I enjoy watching the diving in the Summer Olympics and skiing and snowboarding in the Winter Olympics. Also, some of the Extreme Sports like stunt biking, parkour and other things are interesting for similar reasons, and I sometimes look into these things for my mystery adventure stories, since they seem fitting for adventures.

7. Did you ever slip in public?


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My worst slips on ice were in the seventh or eighth grade. This was at a time when most kids walked to school. One winter school day, the sidewalks were extremely icy. Looking back on it, I think they really should have cancelled school. Also, at this time, it was not trendy to carry a backpack or book bag, so I was carrying a big pile of school books in my arms. I completely wiped out in front of a neighbor’s house, and my books went scattering everywhere. Just as I had gathered them up again, I wiped out a second time. The neighbor came out of his house to check on me.

8. Can you spell your name in Chinese?


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No, I can not. However, one of my good friends, Iris, is from Hong Kong, and another good friend, Jeannie, is from South Korea. One time when the three of us were together with our friend, Adrienne, Iris wrote my name out for me in Chinese and Jeannie did the same for me in Korean. They both wrote on the same slip of paper which I still have hanging in my room. If I really wanted to study the paper, I probably could learn to write my name in Chinese … and Korean too.

8. Do you like poetry?


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I do like poetry. My favorite poet is Robert Frost, but I also like sonnets by Shakespeare and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and romantic poetry from Shelley and Keats. I can’t say that I read poetry often, but I enjoyed studying these poets as an English major. Sometimes, I have gone for a hike, packing a snack and a poetry book, then enjoying both treats together once I was into the woods. It seemed fitting as a lot of poetry is nature-oriented. Of course, the Psalms are also poetry, and Psalms is probably my favorite book of the Bible.

9. Which flower is your favorite?


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I became interested in orchids after seeing impressive displays in greenhouses at Longwood Gardens, New York Botanical Gardens and even at Duke’s Farm in my local area. Pinterest seemed to understand this about me before I did and kept recommending more and more orchid photos for my Flowers board. There are so many interesting varieties of orchids. Some of my reading has piqued this interest as well. I read a book called The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, which dealt with true crime, someone who illegally obtained the flower from protected land and some crazed collectors. Also, Nero Wolfe, the private investigator in Rex Stout’s mysteries, is an orchid grower and connoisseur.

10. Are you a foodie?


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I am probably a foodie by some definitions. I am pretty open to different kinds of cuisine, am almost constantly finding new recipes and have developed a somewhat sophisticated palate. I am really aiming to eat healthy, so I’m hoping to be a healthy foodie. Sometimes, “foodie” is meant to refer to a kind of food snobbishness. I don’t think that fits me as well. I can still handle some down homey, not so gourmet fare.

11. What song did you listen to last?

Above is the song I listened to last. The song is, apparently, from a Bollywood movie, and there are clips from the movie worked into the video. Neither the violinist nor the song were familiar to me until a few days ago when it showed up in my YouTube recommendations. I think it showed up because I follow other violinists on YouTube and because I’ve enjoyed the Bollywood dances on Wii Just Dance games. For some of the latter, I was curious enough to look up the songs and see the performances in their original context. I’ve never actually seen a full Bollywood movie.

12. What was your most awkward moment while visiting someone’s home?


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Here is another junior high story. Maybe, that is just the period when awkward things happen. A good friend of mine had me over for dinner with some of her extended family, not just her immediate family whom I knew but some aunts and uncles also. We had chocolate cake for dessert. As I was eating my dessert, I saw what looked like a big piece of unmelted chocolate in the center frosting layer. I put the whole piece in my mouth and quickly discovered it wasn’t chocolate at all but a piece of metal. I knew the metal was in the cake by some terrible mistake. I was a shy and introverted kid, and I was afraid of making a fuss over it and embarrassing the aunt who had made the cake. I don’t remember how everything unfolded, but soon, everyone knew what happened. Apparently, a part of the mixer had fallen off into the cake. One of the uncles was not afraid to make a big fuss and proceeded to tell me that I should wear the metal piece on a string around my neck, and when anyone asked, I could tell them the story about how I almost died. I thought this was rather funny, but I was afraid to laugh, because I don’t think he was intending to be humorous.

13. What is your favorite dessert?


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I really enjoy chocolate and coffee flavors, so I like a really chocolatey dessert, something with coffee flavor like tiramisu or a combination of both such as a mocha cake. I also really enjoy cheesecake.

14. Do you like history?


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I do. I’m not sure if I was always conscious of liking it when I was in school. I wasn’t fond of memorizing dates, but I’m glad now that I did and have successfully memorized a lot of important historical dates. I also have memories of struggling to copy down outlines in a high school history class and keeping up with the lecture at the same time. I do remember enjoying reading about Queen Elizabeth I and King Henry VIII in school. This kind of interest in royal history has stuck with me, and I enjoy watching history period movies on royals or reading books about them.

Now, I can enjoy learning about history in my own way and might watch a historical film or read historical fiction or non-fiction. I like antiques also and watch “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers” on History Channel. The guys from these two shows, (Mike, Frank, Rick, Corey, Chumlee), are known in my house collectively as “the guys,” as in “Can we switch to History Channel and see if ‘the guys’ are on?” Sometimes, there are other guys on this channel like “Swamp Men,” but those aren’t the guys.

15. What’s the most silly thing you’ve done in public?


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This anecdote deals with Question 2 and my time in Hungary. During my time there, we visited a large public fountain outside one of the universities. Our group of seven teachers was accompanied by our translator, Edouard. Some of us had a desire to walk through the fountain, but we were hesitant. We realized it was a little bit goofy and didn’t want to commit a cross-cultural faux pas and be labelled as “crazy Americans.” When we expressed all of this to Edouard, who became a good friend to us, he jumped into the fountain first and led the way. We couldn’t be blamed if a native Hungarian took the lead. So, all seven of us paraded through the fountain, led by our kindly Hungarian friend.