Thursday, January 25, 2018

I'm Going to India!!

In case you missed the title up there...I'm going to India!

An internet friend posted recently that she had open spots for "folks who don't live in the Grand Rapids area" on an upcoming missions trip with WCSG Radio, so I applied. Because #missions and #India. Also because I've watched Ronne post about so many other trips over the past few years that didn't work out for me to join.

This time around, though, there was no reason to say no. When I asked for the time off, my boss actually said he's going to see about putting me in the employee newsletter and having the facility sponsor me! So once work was clear, that was it. See, God and I have a deal: I'll take action on any missions trip that comes my way unless I get a no from Him. No no's means it's a yes! And it's no coincidence that her post was just a few days after I put this random internet image on my vision board for the year:

So now, the details.
Right smack-dab in the middle of July I will be heading to the Kullu Valley of Northern India (right in the Himalayas!) with Orphan Outreach and WCSG Radio. Together we'll get to meet and love and play and learn with the children at DUF (House of Grace) Children's Home while they're on summer break.

A staggering statistic I just learned? 35,000,000 children in India are orphaned. THIRTY-FIVE MILLION. That's 9% of India's children! And that does not represent the insane number of homeless kids living on the streets! This trip is a chance to make a difference for a few of them, and I am so excited to meet them.

(How great is this logo?!)

I'd love for you to join me.
I would love for you to partner with me in prayer and funding. As with all of my missions trips, I am committed to paying for at least half of the trip from my own pocket, and raising support for the other half. If you would like to donate towards this love adventure, you can do so here by putting my name (Ashley Webster) in the participant line. For those curious, the trip code is IN18-07WCSG, but it's not required to make a donation.

Current prayer requests:
That God would prepare the team for the work of this trip, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. That he would instill us with wisdom and boldness, humbleness and grace. And, selfishly, that the temperature would be a little below average while we're there. 95 degrees is not this lady's ideal climate.

I am so so excited for this adventure! It will be my first missions trip where I don't know anyone on the team, and my first time to India! Have you been to India? What should I know?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Geektacular Adventuring

Whoops. This blog has fallen by the wayside a bit as I've gotten deeper into Youtube. Sorry. Hoping to fix that in the next few months.

As you may know, I've been using this year to read through ALL of Roald Dahl's books. I've been posting updates over on my Youtube channel. For July's wrap up, I also made a special announcement...I will be going to the UK in September to join in the events happening for Roald Dahl's 100th birthday! And adding in other geeky things! If you missed the announcement, click here
I will be there for nearly two weeks, hopping around to a few cities and events, and I thought I would share what I'll be going to, in case you're curious (hi Mom and Gran!) or are in the area and want to join in. 

These are in no particular order, other than being grouped by city. Links are in the title of each event.


Okay, so this isn't necessarily geeky. But I've been to England twice, with Stonehenge up on my list of things I want to see, and I still haven't done it! So I'm making it a priority. I'm going the day I get in, so I'll be EXHAUSTED and sleeping on the bus, but whatever. I am going to see Stonehenge this time.

This is about an hour outside of London and is the official "home" of all things Dahl. It seems to be mostly geared towards children, but I still think it will be fun. And worst case, I can explore a new town.

Besides hotels and flights, this is the most expensive part of the trip, but I could not pass it up! It's an adults only dinner theatre put on by the disgustingly gruesome Dahl characters Mr and Mrs Twit. It sounds absolutely amazing and I'm so excited to have the opportunity to see this.

I almost didn't get in on this. When I found out there was a true English Afternoon Tea service, at The Shard, with a Dahl theme, it was at the top of my list! But when I went to book, the website wouldn't let me book a party of one. So I sent an email playing the YouTube card (not that I think that mattered), heard back within 15 minutes, and one international phone call later, I've got a reservation. This looks amazingly delicious and whimsical, and I absolutely can't wait.

I did mention "other" geeky stuff. I figured if I'm going to England for one geeky reason, why not just capitalize on the geekiness and do it all? So I am fitting in Harry Potter. I have not heard a single bad thing about this tour, so I'm excited to get my Hogwarts Pride on. I really wanted to get in to the Cursed Child play, but tickets are NOT going to happen :( 

How fun does that sound?! I also managed to score second row seats for about $30 because it has "limited leg room". But all the reviews of the seat online said if you're under 5'5'' you'd be fine, so...yay me! 


This is the biggest thing happening in Cardiff for Dahl's birthday. The weekend of the 17th will have all kinds of activities and readings all around town- including a Pyjama Party! There are a few things listed on the website, and others will be announced as we get closer. Plus, I think a lot of it will just be up in the air (to visitors like me). 

There's a special exhibit on Quentin Blake at this museum, so a trip is in order!

The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl is taking place here. I don't know what it means, but there's a photo of James' Giant Peach with kids playing in it, so I'm totally game.

I've heard this is wonderful, so I'm going to work it in somewhere. I have two full days currently with "nothing planned" so we'll see how it works out. I've also read that with a ticket to my next adventure, you can get a discount to the castle.

There was no way in the multiverse I was going to Cardiff and not going to the Doctor Who Experience. I even reworked my itinerary to include a day when they do walking tours to filming locations. I may have also splurged for the merchandise pack, which includes a t-shirt, tote, other goodies, plus- the part I'm most excited about- A COMPANION TARDIS KEY. I get to be a companion! I also read on their website that sometimes the BBC allows ticket holders for DWE to go tour the ACTUAL, CURRENT TARDIS set. So, prayers that it happens the day I go :)

Ianto's Shrine
This is an unofficial landmark that is a must for the Torchwood fandom. And warning-this entry contains spoilers. When character Ianto Jones was killed on the show fans left flowers, notes and the like on the pier. Now 7 years later, the tribute remains as a wonderfully weird memorial to our coffee boy.

Wonderman: Cardiff
I literally JUST learned about this while getting the link for something else. It seems to be a show of some kind (?musical?) based on Roald Dahl's adult stories. That is all I know at this point; going to do more research and see if I can squeeze it in.

I say I think because I've seen it listed as Cheshire but also Knutsford, so....whatever.

From what I gather, Tatton Park is a fancy old property with a grand house and garden and...a farm? Around the property are all kinds of Dahl-related exhibits. For example, the Enormous Crocodile is lurking on the grounds and Danny is hunting pheasants with the guests. It sounds totally magical. 

Also taking place at Tatton Park is a special daylong workshop for adult writers to learn to create characters and stories like Dahl. There are two different dates for this, and I believe I did see a children's course at one point, too.

Phew! I think that's least for now. They keep adding events! I'm going to run out of time and money before this is all through, but I'm really excited about this trip. 
It's going to be deliciously geeky in all kinds of ways.

Which of these events would you like to see covered in depth on this blog? 
Do you have a favorite Dahl story?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Why I Love Compassion International

It's been a while since I've blogged for Compassion. It's also been a while since I volunteered for one of their events (both things I am going to have to change this year). But I had an experience this week that I want to share with you.

There are a lot of child-sponsorship organizations out there, but I've gone through Compassion International for over ten years now for a reason: they care about people. They care about the children and families they minister to, certainly, but they also care about their sponsors and partners.

I could tell you about how more than 80% goes directly to the sponsored communities or how they consistently receive the highest ratings from independent charity investigators, but I'm not going to. I have three personal incidences that I want to share with you that emphasize what I passionately support Compassion.

1. Forgiveness

Several years ago, I was between jobs and, due to an error (on my part) saving my debit card on the website, I fell many months behind. Like, hundreds of dollars behind. Thanks to automatic withdrawals, I didn't pay attention to the envelopes coming in. I had no clue until they called asking about it. Making only $50 a week, there was no way I'd be able to pay that back. I was near tears and in shock, and didn't want to have to give up my sponsored child (although I knew they would cover that child's sponsorship until a new sponsor could be found). But then the operator said something amazing. Compassion was going to wipe my debt and give me a fresh start. That started the tears, for sure. The man on the phone was so kind, even though I'm sure he was following a script. I fully believed in that moment that he and Compassion knew life happens and truly forgave the debt. If any organization practices what they preach, it's Compassion.

2. Accountability and Integrity

A few months back I received a letter from Compassion that the community center my child was a part of was being less than honest. They didn't tell the details, just that their standards for distribution and honor were not being followed. They were working with the community leaders and had given them 60 days to show improvement or Compassion would have to pull their support from the area. I received three more letters on the subject, keeping me informed along the way. Fortunately, everything was resolved and support continues in this area of the world.

One of the things I love about Compassion is that they work with local centers that are already making a difference in their communities. They don't come in as the "American Savior", but partner with the local church to empower communities. This incident helped confirm for me that Compassion is serious about how the money they collect is used. More importantly, they give chances. They extend forgiveness. While mistakes were made by leaders in the community, Compassion didn't immediately abandon ship. They worked with the local leaders to resolve the issues for the sake of those in need, and kept the sponsors informed of everything happening.

3. Birthday Wishes

My birthday was this week. I got a call a few days ago that I ignored because I didn't recognize the number. When I finally listened to the message, I found it was someone from the Compassion Advocate Program wishing me a Happy Birthday! I joined the Advocate Program about a year ago, and regrettably haven't done as much as I would've liked for them over the past year. But Compassion cares about people, so I got a personal phone call for my birthday. Does your child sponsorship program do that?

I adore everything that Compassion does for children and families struggling in the world. I passionately support their ministry and will continue to sponsor children through them for as long as I am able. If you would like to support a child through Compassion, click here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Top 15 Books of 2015

2015 ended up being a much better reading year than I expected! I read a total of 70 books this year, after setting a goal of 50. I think joining Booktube and having a place to talk about books with other people pushed me to read more, and I'm so glad! I read a lot of really good books this year, but let me tell you about my favorite fifteen.

Note: These are not necessarily books that came out in 2015, just books that I read in 2015. Books I have reviewed on my channel will have a link.

Runner Up, Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Look at these gorgeous new covers! They form one giant picture and it's beautiful. This series follows a boy named Percy starting on his 11th birthday when he finds out he's a demigod- his dad is the Greek god Poseidon. Throughout the series (and it's follow up series Heroes of Olympus) we see Percy and his demigod friends battle monsters, strengthen friendships, and save the world. I'm working my way through all of Rick Riordan's books and none have been disappointing.

15. Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie pulled off the greatest surprise ever for the 10th anniversary of Twilight (besides publishing Midnight Sun. THAT would've been the greatest): she published a new book in the Twilight world. It's not a completely brand new story, it's Twilight reimagined with all the genders swapped. Because Bella is now Beau, some little things change, and then the whole story changes a little bit. And I loved every second. In addition to my review linked above, I have a reaction video here.

14. Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards

This book was a total surprise! The cover drew me in at Barnes and Noble, the blurb on the back sounded interesting, and then I stayed up all night to finish it. When Chloe wakes up in study hall, six months have passed and she can't remember anything, but everything in her life has done a 180 degree twist. No one will answer her questions and she's determined to get to the bottom of it all. Really intriguing book! She has another book out and I'm going to have to get it this year, because SMO kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time!

13. We Were Liars by e. lockhart

This book. I can't tell you a lot about it. In fact, e. lockhart told me to lie about this book if asked about it, so let's just not say much. A wealthy family summers on their private island, and some dark secrets come out. This book is incredibly easy to fly through, and makes you wonder what the heck is happening most of the time. I initially disliked this book, but here we are months later and I keep thinking about it. So it's moved up my rating a bit. Just read it, and then we can chat.

12. The Heir by Kiera Cass

I loved The Selection series so much, so when I heard about this one I was so excited! And I was not disappointed! I liked Eadlyn more than I liked America and really enjoyed seeing her go through her own selection. Getting to see the whole process from the royal perspective was a nice twist. She has some wonderful contenders, and I can't wait for the final installment of this series to see who she chooses!

11. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi 

This book. This book has the most unique, gorgeous writing style I've ever read. It's sort of train of thought with certain things crossed out and other things written in. Juliette has a...talent, shall we call it? Her touch is lethal. Because of this, she's been locked away for most of her life, until the beginning of our story, when she is rescued and suddenly treated more like a superhero than a monster, though people still don't trust her. This story is just so great and I'm looking forward to finishing the series this year.

10. The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst

I think every woman, really person, in ministry should read this. It is geared towards women, but I think men could get something out of it too. It's about making wise decisions that lead you to your best life, not the busy life. About knowing when to say yes and when to say no. In fact, there are three chapters dedicated to "no" in this book about The Best Yes! Terkeurst also helps you chase down decisions, to step back and see what that small yes may lead to and if it's where you really want to go. Great book!

9. You're Never Weird on the Internet...Almost by Felicia Day

YES. I love Felicia Day (hence the photo of us in this post about her book), and this memoir was fantastic. I loved learning more about her life, her passion for the things she loves, and her drive to make things happen. This book made me laugh, and while I would have liked to see at least one story about the boys of Supernatural, this still got five stars from me.

8. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Set only 40 years in our future, humanity is crumbling and seeks relief in an online world called The Oasis. Not only is it an escape from the depression of daily life, but with a chance to win the inheritance of The Oasis' creator, it holds the promise of lifelong happiness and comfort. This book is so well done. Yes, it's very detailed, but Cline has literally created dozens of new technologies and worlds in this book. The characters are wonderful and the story line will keep you hooked. This is set to become a movie next year by the great Steven Spielberg and I can't wait to see this translated to the big screen.

7. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

No one can write about mental health issues as hilariously as Jenny Lawson. Her first book cracked me up and made me literally laugh out loud, and this one was no different. This book focuses more on her depression, anxiety, etc. than the first, but all with the signature Bloggess touch. I'm pretty sure the people around me on the plane thought I was crazy, because I was crying-snort-laughing in my seat. Just read this. 

6. Amish Vampires in Space by Kerry Nietz

Okay. I know how this looks.
But you guys, this is a real book. A hefty 400+ page book. And it's sorta kinda awesome. It's literally about Amish Vampires in Space. And there's a sequel!! I need to get my hands on's Amish Zombies From Space. But in all seriousness, I really enjoyed this book, despite the insane premise. While the subject is obviously interesting, the characters lived up to it, for the most part. I just really enjoyed this book.

5. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

This book is simply lovely. Maddie is allergic to everything and is content in her quiet bubbled life with just her mom and her virtual tutor. That is, until a cute mysterious boy moves in next door. Suddenly Maddie is doing things she never imagined and the results are at turns disastrous and heartwarming. My only complaint about this book is that it's not a tad bit longer. I just needed a little bit more to this story; it wrapped up too quickly! 

4. 52 Ways to Live a Kick-ass Life by Andrea Owen

My friend lent me this book for a plane ride and I lapped it up in just over one flight. With several pages of notes in my journal (since it wasn't my book I couldn't write in it). This is a self-help type book with very simple steps to take to help you live your best life. I absolutely loved this book. I had also read You Are a Badass this year (different author) but 52 Ways was much better, in my opinion. I related to Andrea and just liked her style more.

3. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Oh man. This book. I picked it up looking for a light, sweet read. I was very wrong to assume this would be that book. However, it was amazing and I'm so glad I read it. This novel deals with themes of suicide and hints at bipolar disorder, and Jennifer weaves such a beautiful story through these themes. I laughed, I cried, I hugged the book when I was done.

2. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A friend sent me this book (thanks Jess!) when it came into her possession but she wasn't interested in it. It sat on my shelf for a little while before I finally picked it up and I LOVED this book so much more than I expected to. And it's just grown on me as time has gone by. Kel has the ability to travel between the three different universes that contain a version of London, a gift he shares with only one other person. One day things begin to go terribly wrong and a spunky girl named Lila gets mixed up with the drama.

This book was unique for me in that when it ended, I was satisfied with the ending while still having some lingering questions. Lucky for me, when I looked it up on GoodReads, I found out it's part of a series! YAY! The next book comes out this year and I can't wait!

1. Illuminae by Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

Here we are, my absolute favorite book of the year is 1000% Illuminae. I read it twice in 2015 because I loved it so much. I had picked it up at BookCon and started reading it a few months later without knowing anything about it. That is absolutely the way to go. What sets this book apart and makes the story so much better is the way it's told. Illuminae uses a collection of documents to tell the story of the Kerenza Incident, such as security transcripts, emails, interviews, medical records, and artificial intelligence reports. This book has so much happening in it, you just need to read it to understand my love and excitement (and this massive gorgeous book is only $10 on Amazon, so you have no excuses). I show some of the pictures and gorgeousness inside during my video review, so click the title up there to see it.

So there you have it, my favorite reads of 2015! Which one do you want to read? 
What were your favorite books of the year?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Year of Dahl Challenge Announcement

It came to my attention in 2015 that I haven't read any of Roald Dahl's books. I know many of the stories, of course, and I've seen the movies, but never actually read the books. Since the box set was $150 at the time, I started collecting some of his books from used book stores and came up with a new brilliant plan. This plan required a little work, so it took me a few months to pull it all together, but now I'm ready to go for it and share with all of you.

I am declaring 2016 the Year of Dahl. 
I am going to read (practically) all of Dahl's work in one year. 

I say practically because there are a few snags to reading everything. First of all, one of his novels (his first adult novel) is out of print everywhere except the Netherlands. You can find it on eBay if you're willing to shell out several hundred dollars, though. Then Dahl also wrote a bunch of short stories- and I do mean a BUNCH. Without buying every short story collection and having a lot of overlap, I don't know that I'll get to read all of them.

From what I understand after scouring several websites, there are a total of 27 books (including novels, children's literature, and nonfiction works) and 48 short stories written by Dahl. I plan to read most- if not all- of them in 2016.

To help me in this, I've compiled some resources that I'd like to share with you.

First, the ultimate list of books and short stories. I've created a few spreadsheets all on Google Drive here. The first sheet is a list of the books and any special notes. The second sheet is a list of the short stories and where to find them. The third and final sheet shows 7 short story collections side-by-side listing the stories in each collection.

Next up, I've made some printables!  Here's an adorable little checklist of all the Roald Dahl books.

I can't wait to use it! I've also created one for the short stories.

I'll be posting monthly updates of my on my YouTube channel, and hopefully here as well. If you decide to take this challenge, let me know; I'd love to follow along! I'm super excited about this, and if you can't tell, watch the video below!

Do you have a favorite Roald Dahl story? Let me know down below and I'll move it towards the top of my TBR.

Disclaimer: I do not claim the images used in the checklists. They are Quentin Blake's works from the original Roald Dahl stories. Also, some of the books and stories on these lists contain adult content. Not all of his works are child-friendly. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I Have Pink Hair Now. Pink Hair Is Cool.

Last week I did something a little bit crazy. I dyed my hair pink. Not all of it, just some peek-a-boo highlights in bright pink. AND I LOVE IT! Seriously, LOVE.

Those around me have said things like "It's so out of character for you!" and "What possessed you to do that?!" Most have loved it, too, but it got me thinking. Why did I dye my hair pink? It wasn't to impress someone or make me stand out. It wasn't to be cool, or to rebel against anything. Most simply, I couldn't find an excuse not to.

I have always wanted to dye my hair pink but always had an excuse: Parents won't let me. School won't let me. Work won't let me. I can't keep it up. I don't have the money. I don't wanna do it myself and mess up my head. Last week, I ran out of excuses.

I'll be 29 in just a few short weeks. One year left in my twenties (but lets not talk about that). Isn't this the decade when you're supposed to do crazy things? By comparison to others my age, pink hair is barely a blip on the crazy scale.

But honestly? The real reason I did it? Every time I look in the mirror and see these pink strands, I smile. Having pink hair makes me happy.

Life is too short to be miserable. Or even just apathetic. 
Life should be enjoyed. Savored. Abundant and overflowing. 

That was something I was trying to cultivate in 2015, something I'm still working on. Saying yes to more things that are enjoyable and no to things that aren't. Getting out of my comfortable but boring bubble and into things that are fun and interesting and difficult (even if they sometimes take place on my couch; Hello, BookTube!).

A life well lived. This is what I want my life to be, and my pink hair is a small tribute to that.
So here's to the coming year. A year of bold choices, enjoyable experiences, a life overflowing.

What have you done lately just because it made you happy?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Twilight and Procrastination

I shouldn't be writing this. No, like I really shouldn't. I should be writing my paper before class tonight. But you know when you're just not in the mood to write a paper, so you're procrastinating by watching YouTube, and researching the upcoming book of an Instagrammer you follow, and wondering when those books you ordered last week will get here so you can film your October haul, and then you just decide to blow it all off and write a blog post? Yeah, that's how I'm feeling.

So, I'm not sure where this post is going right now. I have some photos to share with you from my trip to Chicago last month, but that would require standing up to get my external hard drive where they're currently stored. Same with my attendance at the Night Vale book signing. Oooh so let's talk Twilight!

It's been a while since Twilight has been mentioned on this blog, since all the books and movies have been out for years. That is, until earlier this month. Because Stephenie Meyer somehow hid from the entire world that she had written a new Twilight book.

I'm still not over this. How did no one spill??

On the morning of October 6th 2015 (aka the greatest day for book releases and book news in the history of ever), the tenth anniversary special edition of Twilight was released, and with it a new story. Well, the exact same story but with reversed genders. The book world went nuts. I was in bed when I saw it online and, after checking multiple sources to make sure it wasn't a joke and the B&N website to make sure they had it in stock, I immediately restructured my day to go buy it. I may have blown off a few minor responsibilities that morning. But the day ended with I my hands on the new Twilight book and this video, that I think gives you a small glimpse at how excited I was:

To say I was excited was an understatement. I didn't realize my love for Twilight still ran so deep until it was announced that there was a new book. I had to have it right then, and once it was finally mine, I did little else but read that book until it was finished. And I loved it. It's like a fan fiction, but better than fan fiction because the original author wrote it and approves of this imagining! I did a full review in this video:

But suffice it to say, that while this is not Midnight Sun (maybe for the 11th anniversary edition? Whaddya say, Stephenie?), it was still a very pleasant surprise. Is it a completely new book? Definitely not. But is it a fun twist on an old favorite? Absolutely. Go in expecting that and I think you'll enjoy it too.

Also, I just have to say, in my opinion....Beau > Bella. Sorry not sorry.
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