Four Friday links to make you smile

Update: make that five links. I found another just after hitting ‘Publish’, and I had to share it. I’ve added it at the bottom. Enjoy!

I had a bit of a stressful week, but it ended on a high – and two of my best friends from London are coming for the weekend, so I’m looking forward to chilling out.

Throughout the week I found some lovely photos and stories on the interwebs to cheer me on. I hope they bring a smile to your face, too!

1. Photos from the Travel Photographer of the Year competition: UnbeLIEVable photos showing the wonder and diversity of our world! These are on display in London, and I’m hoping to take my parents there when they visit this summer.

2. 21 pictures that will restore your faith in humanity – Here’s one of my favorites:

3. Greek octopus forms coalition with dolphin’s genitals: Just the most awesome photo EVER

4. Wonder’s story: reunited with my family after seven years
Get your hankies ready. A friend of mine wrote this about a man named Wonder who fled Zimbabwe in fear for his life and has now been reunited by the Red Cross with his wife and kids. Seeing their smiles is worth the click alone.

5. 24-hour cupcake ATM:  If you’re ever out in Beverly Hills at 3am (which, I have to say, I frequently was when I was at UCLA, since I had to drive through Beverly Hills to get to my favorite all-night coffee house), you can now get a cupcake through an ATM at Sprinkles. This is going on the list of things I’m totally taking my RWA Nationals roomie Moriah Densley out to do when we’re in Anaheim next month. Okay, I know it’s a bit of a drive, but seriously – a cupcake ATM!

Have you seen anything smile-inducing online this week?

Show me the Mangatar – and win!

Last week I told you about an addictive site I found,, and I asked you to send me your own Manga-style avatar so we could get to know each other better (and so you could have a chance to win a $10 book gift certificate :))

The Mangatar website seems to break frequently, so I’m really pleased to say we got three entries. Look at how gorgeous you all are!

I love them all and need help choosing a winner. So, everyone, leave a comment below telling me which is your favorite. The winner will get a $10 gift certificate, and I’ll randomly draw one commenter to win one too.

In ABC order by first name, here’s…

June Manning (love that hair!)

June Manning

Moriah Densley (ROWR! Bedroom eyes!)

Moriah Densley

Stephanie Burgis (Amen to the sign!)

Stephanie Burgis

Time to vote!

Okay, readers, who should win? Leave your comment below and I’ll choose one of you to also win a $10 gift certificate to an online book store.

I’ll announce the winners on Tuesday May 8th, so be quick!

Friday fun: Make yourself Manga and win!

Feel like you have far too much time on your hands and you need to fritter it away somehow?

Well have I got the solution for you!

I just discovered this site called Mangatar where you can create your own Manga-style avatar.

If you’re scratching your head and wondering what Manga is, they’re Japanese comics and cartoons.

Here’s the first Mangatar I created for myself:

Manga Kat

After I made that one, I discovered a tiny, almost invisible scroll bar that gave me the option to hold a sign – yes, my Mangatar can stand for something! (And cover my bustiness – a flat chest doesn’t seem to be a Manga option. Being rather busty in real life, I do feel more comfortable holding something big in front of my chest anyway.)

Manga Kat with romance sign

Even better, if you join the Mangatar community, you’ll see the language the site uses is very much in the “translated from Japanese” style. For example, when I logged in for the first time, I got the message: “No yet updates, envolve your friends!”

Friends, I “envolve” you now.

If you decide to create your own Mangatar, download it and email it to me: romancingkatrina(@)

I’ll display our Mangatars together on this blog next Saturday, May 5th. We can comment on the best one, and someone will win a $10 gift certificate to the online book store of their choice.   

Can’t wait to see what you all look like!

Other posts you might like:

Authors’ surprising hobbies

I have a game for those of you of a literary bent.

Match these writers with their hobbies (answers here but don’t cheat!)

1. Emily Dickenson

2. Vladimir Nabokov

3. Franz Kafka

4. Ayn Rand

5. Flannery O’Connor

6. Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

7. Haruki Murakami

8. Zadie Smith

9. Mark Twain

a. raising peacocks

b. beekeeping

c. baking

d. inventing things

e. lepidopterology (studying butterflies and moths)

f. dancing

g. stamp collecting

h. listening to jazz

i. collecting porn

How did you do? Which of your hobbies would surprise people? 

A very British video teaches you about teatime

It’s 4 o’clock in London. Teatime.

I’ve lived in London for over six years, so believe me when I tell you that the British passion for tea may be a cliche but only because it’s absolutely true.

Even after all these years, I still don’t fully understand the traditions surrounding tea. It seems like my colleagues are always getting up from their desks and saying, “Tea?” with their heads tilted and a slight smile. The question and facial expression are always the same, no matter whether the urge for tea is a reaction to boredom, frustration with a manager or colleague, needing something hot to wash down an afternoon cake, or a desire to escape the desk and stretch the legs.

The urge for tea never seems to be prompted by thirst.

Yesterday, a friend at work brought in a lemon drizzle cake and told me we couldn’t touch it until teatime. Color me confused – isn’t tea time whenever you get yourself to the kitchen and turn the kettle on?

Apparently not. Another friend saw my confusion and sent me this video, which I think the Anglophiles among you will enjoy as much as those of you with a thing for puppets.

So make yourself a nice cuppa and watch the show. (No need to wait till it’s 4 o’clock where you are.)

If every nation in creation has its drink, what’s the favorite drink of your culture? Do you have any traditions around it?