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read it: eleanor & park

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Title: Eleanor & Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Book Number: 13 out of 75 (as part of my 101 in 1001 journey)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆  (One star = couldn’t finish; two stars = didn’t like; three stars = enjoyable; four stars = great read; five stars = fantastic)

Summary: Park never expected for the new girl, with her red hair and unlikely fashion choices, to become his first love – but she did. Brought together by bus rides, comic books, and music, Eleanor and Park not only fell in love, but became best friends. It’s not a new concept, two teenagers falling madly in love, but what is unique about Eleanor and Park are the challenges they face. While Park’s parents are devoted to each other and their children, maintaining a safe and loving home, Eleanor’s family life is chaotic, full of poverty and fear. Pair that with bullies at school, and Park become Eleanor’s main source of stability and love – a role he gladly accepts, and his parents slowly start to share.

Thoughts: I enjoyed this book a great deal, and I’m glad I did – I picked it for my book club’s January meeting! First of all, it’s set in 1986, and I just have a thing for books that are set the past, but aren’t really “historical” novels (similar to Rainbow Rowell’s book, Attachments, which I LOVE). Rowell does a fantastic job of portraying the intensity and sincerity of teenage love. She also did a wonderful job of developing characters the reader can connect with and root for. The story is told in chapters that alternate between Eleanor and Park’s point of view, which I think really fleshed out both their characters and the depth of their love for each other. I didn’t give this book five stars because I wasn’t sure how I felt about the very end of the book. I keep going back and forth on whether I’m satisfied with it or if I wish there had been more. Nonetheless, I am pumped that this book will be a movie in the near future!

Have you read Eleanor and Park? What did you think? If I liked Eleanor and Park and other books by Rainbow Rowell, what else would you recommend?

Are you on GoodreadsI am. Let’s be friends!

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read it: comfort and joy

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Title: Comfort & Joy

Author: Kristin Hannah

Book Number: 11 out of 75 (as part of my 101 in 1001 journey)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆  (One star = couldn’t finish; two stars = didn’t like; three stars = enjoyable; four stars = great read; five stars = fantastic)

Summary: Joy Candellaro is a high school librarian whose having a tough time. She’s recently divorced due to her husband’s cheating, and is missing her best friend – her sister, who also happens to be her ex-husband’s new fiancee. She is dreading what used to be her favorite holiday, Christmas, and decides she will finally travel like she has always wanted to. Without telling anyone, she drives to the airport and convinces a small chartered plane to let her join them on their trip to a town called Hope.  When the plane crashes and Joy is stranded some distance away from the wreckage, she makes the unthinkable decision to just literally walk away. After traveling for miles, Joy finds herself in town of Rain Valley and seeks shelter at a closed inn. With the help of lonely six-year-old Bobby O’Shea, Joy convinces inn owner and Bobby’s father Daniel to let her stay. Joy learns the family is struggling with the recent loss of Bobby’s mother, and finds herself taking steps to help the O’Sheas, despite her best efforts to restrain herself.

Just when it seems like Joy is about to have a beautiful Christmas after all, her precious new world is shattered. Joy must decide what is true and what’s not, and if seizing a small chance for happiness is worth the the bigger chance of heartbreak.

Thoughts: I adore this book for a few reasons: (1) The main character works at a high school, which I can of course relate to, (2) it takes place in the Pacific Northwest, which I have never visited but love to read about and hope to see someday, and (3) the first half reads exactly like a made-for-TV Hallmark Christmas movie. I understand that description would cause some people to pass on reading it, but for me, that’s an excellent hook. However, the book does take a turn that I was not expecting and it became distinctly not Hallmark-like, in the best of ways. It was a fun book to read around the holidays, but I think would be enjoyable at any time of the year.

Have you read Comfort and Joy? What did you think? If I liked Comfort and Joy and other books by Kristin Hannah, what else would you recommend?

Are you on GoodreadsI am. Let’s be friends!

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read it: big little lies

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Title: Big Little Lies

Author: Liane Moriarity

Book Number: 10 out of 75 (as part of my 101 in 1001 journey)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  (One star = couldn’t finish; two stars = didn’t like; three stars = enjoyable; four stars = great read; five stars = fantastic)

Summary: Welcome to the Australian, beachside community of Pirriwee Peninsula, where the parents of the students at Pirriwee Public School create as much drama as your favorite reality show.

Madeline is a passionate, confident woman whose ex-husband and his hippie wife have recently relocated to Pirriwee. To add injustice to annoyance, their five-year-old daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest child, and her teenage daughter could not want any less to do with Madeline.

Madeline’s friend, Celeste, is gorgeous and kind, but rather preoccupied. Everyone assumes its because she is mother to kindergarten-age twin boys – but is that all?

Together, Madeline and Celeste befriend young, new-to-town Jane and her young, also-entering-kindergarten son. Jane is shy and seems to be holding onto some secrets herself, but when on the kindergarten orientation day a line gets drawn in the sand, the three quickly become allies in what will play out as a year-long battle culuminating in a death at Pirriwee Primary School’s annual trivia night.

Told in flashbacks and pieces of witness testimony, piece by piece the secrets of Pirriwee’s residents are revealed, true natures come to light, and, finally, we learned who was killed – and why.

Thoughts: I LOVED this book. I read it in November 2014 while I was recovering from ACL surgery. It made me laugh out loud and cry. It made me fantasize about living by the sea and feel warm waves of gratitude for my wonderful family, husband, and friends. It made me wish I could write and create engaging characters with as much depth and seamlessly address difficult issues with as much grace and realism as Moriaty can. It made me text my friends who aren’t in book club with me and tell them to read this book.

Have you read Big Little Lies? What did you think? If I liked Big Little Lies, what other books would you recommend?

Are you on GoodreadsI am. Let’s be friends!

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Goodbye 2014…Hello 2015!

Thanks for so many lovely memories, 2014.

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I’m super excited for 2015. I’ve made a list of items from my 101 in 1001 list that I plan to check off year. I can’t wait to have fun and explore my hobbies and interests more. I’ve also made some resolutions:

1. Get enough sleep.
2. Successfully rehab knee.
3. Eat for health.
4. Compete in a triathlon. 
5. Floss every other day.
6. Create and implement a set chore schedule.
7. Make and implement a joint budget every month.
8. Go to church more consistently.
9. Spend more time with family.
10. Be on time.

I think I’ve set reasonable resolutions, and I definitely selected fun activities to knock off my 101 in 1001 list!

What were your favorite memories of 2014? Do you have any resolutions or bucket list items for 2015?

Read It: The American Heiress

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Title: The American Heriess

Author: Daisy Goodwin

Book Number: 2 out of 75 (as part of my 101 Things in 1001 Days journey)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆  (One star = couldn’t finish; two stars = didn’t like; three stars = enjoyable; four stars = great read; five stars = fantastic)

Summary: At the turn of the century, Cora Cash is the only child in the one of the richest families in America. Despite their beautiful homes and extravagant parties, her mother is not satisfied. She is determined to become part of society’s most elite, and will do whatever she can to ensure Cora enters into a marriage that will raise their family’s status from one of new fortune to unquestionable superiority. To Mrs. Cash, that means packing up her daughter, traveling to Europe, and looking for an appropriate suitor among nobility. Much to the surprise of society both in England and America, Cora Cash finds herself marrying not just any nobleman, but the Duke of Wareham. After a whirlwind proposal and wedding, Cora struggles not only to navigate the subtleties and secrets of English society, but of her new husband. After a lifetime of money dictating her choices and how people treat her, Cora must dig deep within herself to find out who she truly is and what she wants her life to be.

Thoughts: This book has gotten rave reviews, and it is about the intricacies of high society of both America and England in the late 1800s. If there are two things I’m a fan of, it’s good books and history, so I figured this book was perfect for me. I have to say, I was a little disappointed, but it was probably because my expectations were so high. The book is pretty long, and at times can feel a little slow. In other words, for most of the novel, I didn’t really have a lot of trouble finding a place to stop and put the book down for a bit – until the last 100 pages or so. By the end, the story had really picked up. All the events and tension building throughout the book come to a head and set off an intense chain of events leading to a dramatic conclusion.

I was a little taken aback by the way the book ended. It first it felt a little abrupt, but I realized it was because I had been reading this lengthy book for so long that I had become committed to the story and wanted (or maybe just expected) it to continue. I think it was also because the title of the book, and the fact that it was told from mostly Cora’s point of view (as well as that of her mother and maid), made me believe the book was supposed to be about Cora’s life. However, in truth the book is more centered on marriage – the reasons why people enter into marriage, how those reasons and the past affect the marriage, how marriage changes people, and the choices and sacrifices marriage requires. As a newlywed, I found this theme of the novel the most intriguing – despite the fact that my modern marriage took place after four years of dating someone from my native country, not a foreign nobleman I only knew for a couple weeks. The American Heiress was a wonderful novel, but because of the length and sometimes dragging of this book, I would recommend it only if the time period and gossipy, romantic elements strongly appeal to you.

Have you read The American Heiress? What did you think? If you’re a fan of historical fiction, are there any other books you’d recommend?

Are you on GoodreadsI am. Let’s be friends!

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Blue Jackets Game…and Speaking Up

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At the beginning of the year, I created a 101 in 1001 list. On my list was attending a Blue Jackets game. I had never been to an NHL game before, and the Blue Jackets are the NHL team in Columbus, OH, my husband’s hometown. So for Christmas, I bought three tickets for a game (for him, his best friend, and me) to attend while visiting Columbus for a weekend.

We went to the game a couple weekends ago. It was fun! The atmosphere at the game wasn’t quite as exciting as I hoped it would be, except when a shot was close to being a goal scored, a goal was scored, or a fight broke out. I’m used to college hockey games in a much smaller setting, so that might be why. The first period of the game was really fun, though! Hockey is definitely a sport, like football, that I prefer watching in person.

In between the first and second period Dan and his best friend, Tristan, said they were going to go to the bathroom and asked I wanted to walk around. I said no, I’d stay there. After a couple minutes by myself an older gentlemen came and sat next to me. He was friendly and was made small talk, and by all signs was harmless. But he kept touching my knee and my back, which made me uncomfortable. Then he asked me to blow my nose into a tissue and then give it to him so he could keep it in his special collection of tissues so the Blue Jackets would maintain their winning streak. I declined, feeling even more uncomfortable.

But I didn’t get up and walk away. I didn’t ask him to leave. I just kept making polite small talk. I don’t know why I didn’t pursue either of those totally logical and legitimate options when I was in a situation that, though extremely weird was most likely harmless, made me feel uncomfortable. I guess because I didn’t want to be rude or hurt someone’s feelings. I didn’t want to make “a mountain out of a molehill.” But I felt uncomfortable, so even if it wasn’t a situation in which I was in harm’s way, I shouldn’t have felt like I was being rude or dramatic if I spoke up or walked away. I am sharing this experience because I think a lot of people get into situations where someone is overstepping limits and nothing is said or done about because they fear being impolite or dramatic, or they just hope by ignoring what’s happening it will go away. I have no problem encouraging my students, family, and friends to stick up for themselves or defending them if I feel their well-being is threatened in the slightest manner, but for some reason, when it was just me, by myself, with no one else I knew around me, I shut down. I hope I’m never in an awkward and uncomfortable situation like that again, but if I am, I know I owe it to myself – and the person who is pushing boundaries – to speak up and make it clear what is happening is not okay.

Eventually the man got up and left, and I immediately texted Dan and Tristan what happened and to hurry back (why hadn’t I done that earlier? Because there was no way I could text without the man seeing what I was typing…and again, I was afraid of being rude). When they returned, we left our seats and spend the rest of the game walking around the arena and watching the game from another spot. We still had fun, but I hope I can go to another game sometime in the future so I can hopefully have a more overall positive experience.

Have you ever been in an awkward and uncomfortable situation where you didn’t speak up? Or that you did?

Read It: The Cuckoo’s Calling

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Title: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Author: Robert Galbraith, otherwise known as J. K. Rowling

Book Number: 1 out of 75 (as part of my 101 Things in 1001 Days journey)

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (One star = couldn’t finish; two stars = didn’t like; three stars = enjoyable; four stars = great read; five stars = fantastic)

Summary: Cormoran Strike is down on his luck. Having sustained a serious injury while serving in Afghanistan, he has returned to  London and opened his own struggling private detective agency. Already stressed with the debt he’s accumulated, Strike suddenly finds himself homeless when he and his long-term girlfriend finally call it quits. Fortunately for Strike, his luck is about to turn around. On the very day he finds himself now living out of his office and ignoring his lenders’ calls, a man named John Bistrow enters and begs him for help. Bistrow’s adopted sister, Lulu Landry, was a world-famous supermodel who fell to her death months earlier. Though ruled a suicide, Bistrow is convinced the police are wrong and Lulu was murdered. Strike, despite his doubts, accepts the case and soon finds himself sorting through the lives and secrets of multimillionaires. With the help of his temporary secretary Robin, Strike must prove to everyone Lulu was indeed murdered…before more innocent people fall to their death.

Thoughts: I’m a sucker for a good mystery. I usually read more lighthearted ones such as the Stephanie Plum or Heather Wells novels, but I was drawn to this book for a pretty common reason: It was actually written by J. K. Rowling, who has more than proven herself as one of the best storytellers of our lifetime. I have to say, though, it is not obvious it is written by her. Is it written in a descriptive, engaging, well-thought out manner? Absolutely. But while I was reading I didn’t feel like I was reading something written by an author I had read before. Every now and then I read a passage and thought, “I can see J. K. Rowling’s touch here,” but I doubt I would have thought that if I was reading it without knowledge of the true author. I think she did an excellent job of writing a totally different genre for a different audience, as do many other readers who wrote rave reviews of the novel before her identity was leaked. The character development was superb. While the actual storyline of investigating and solving the mystery could have felt slow at times, my attention was strongly held by the characters’ interactions and the singular personality of Strike. I especially enjoyed that while most the attention was focused on the main character of Strike, that Robin, his secretary and sort-of deputy, was given specific focus at times. It added depth to the story and perspective on Strike. Overall, I loved this book and eagerly await its sequel due out this year.

 

Have you read The Cuckoo’s Calling? What did you think? What about The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s first post-Harry Potter adult novel? I received both as Christmas gifts and I’m excited to read The Casual Vacancy soon, too.

Are you on Goodreads? I am. Let’s be friends!

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101 Things in 1,001 Days

With it being New Year’s Day, I, like a lot of society, am excited for a new year and fresh start. I’ve written New Year’s resolutions pretty much every year for as long as I can remember. Recently, in the years 2011, 2012, and 2013, I created and followed what I called the New Year’s All Year Challenge. It went okay for me in 2011, and pretty well for me in 2012, but I did not keep up with in 2013. A lot of changes occurred in my life this past year (like moving out of my parents’ house, getting married, a new job, etc.), and trying to stay focused on multiple goals every month on top of those changes started to feel very overwhelming for me. I eventually let go of them because I tend to be a perfectionist and my lack of progress on them (due to focusing on all the other big events and adjustments going on) was unnecessarily stressing me out. While my 2014 isn’t currently shaping up to have the type of life-changing events 2013, I have decided to forgo doing a 2014 New Year’s All Year Challenge for the similar reasons. I want to achieve my goals in life, but I want to make sure I am doing so in a balanced way that doesn’t put unneeded pressure on myself.  I want to enjoy the journey and make sure I am having fun and spending time with those I love.

I am a longtime fan of Mackenzie Horan of Design Darling, and I recently realized her 101 Things in 1,001 Days project is perfect way for me to approach the next year. Well, really, the next 2.75 years. As she described it, it’s a “happy medium between writing a to do list and keeping a bucket list. It’s a way to dream big and make regular progress toward meeting those longer term goals.” So, I have crafted my own list and will begin my journey today! I look forward to sharing my progress and experiences with everyone. Happy New Year!!! : )

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Start: January 1, 2014

Wellness

  1. Compete in a masters swim meet.
  2. Complete a triathlon.
  3. Meet my goal weight.
  4. Do yoga every day for a month.
  5. Stop biting my nails.
  6. Complete a Bible study.
  7. Try every fitness class offered at my gym.
  8. Take a self-defense class.
  9. Give up swearing for Lent (and see if it lasts after that!).
  10. Complete a plank challenge.
  11. Floss every other day for a month (and see if I can finally maintain the habit).
  12. Go to the eye doctor.
  13. Eat as a vegetarian for a month.
  14. Complete a squat challenge.
  15. Try 20 different workouts from what I have saved from magazines over the years.
  16. Practice meditation/mindfulness every day for a month.

Outings/Travel

  1. Attend a musical I’ve never seen before.
  2. Revisit the major museums in Cleveland (4).
  3. Go to a Blue Jackets game.
  4. Go apple or berry picking.
  5. Attend a live comedy show.
  6. Ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
  7. Eat at five new-to-me restaurants in the Cleveland or Columbus area.
  8. Go on a tour of a brewery.
  9. Attend a professional orchestra concert.
  10. Visit the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
  11. Go camping.
  12. Visit the Underground Railroad museum in Cincinnati.
  13. Obtain a passport and use it, even if only to travel to Canada (the only other country I have ever been in besides the U.S.).
  14. Visit the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton.
  15. Take Madison to the dog beach.
  16. Visit Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  17. Attend Dinner on the Diamond again.
  18. See a major league baseball game in a stadium I have never been to before.
  19. Go to a BGSU home football game.

Family/Friends

  1. Send Christmas cards to all of our family and friends before the holiday.
  2. Host a book club meeting.
  3. Prepare a meal for my family using an outdoor grill.
  4. Do something extra special for each member of my family.
  5. Host a fancy brunch for my friends.
  6. Mail my closest friends and family cards for each birthday during these 1,001 days.
  7. Throw a party for my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary.

Service/Philanthropy

  1. Donate to PAWS in Madison’s name.
  2. Donate toys to kids in need.
  3. Donate to BGSU.
  4. Complete 25 random acts of kindness.
  5. Donate blankets or coats to those in need.
  6. “Pay it forward” at a coffee shop or at a tollbooth.
  7. Donate books to an organization that distributes them to those who need them or volunteer with a literacy organization.
  8. Complete 40 service hours.
  9. Sponsor an athlete at PSH or donate to scholarships offered through PCSD.

Hobbies

  1. Read 75 books I have never read before.
  2. Bake a pie from scratch.
  3. Make a pizza (dough and sauce) from scratch.
  4. Complete compiling and order a full wedding album.
  5. See a classic movie in a movie theater.
  6. Knit a scarf.
  7. Make 15 recipes out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
  8. Be inspired by Pinterest 10 times to either create/bake/cook something or utilize a cleaning/organization tip.
  9. Back up all my photos.
  10. Make a T-shirt quilt.
  11. Watch 10 Best Picture winning films I haven’t see before.
  12. Back up all my music.
  13. Create Snapfish or Shutterfly albums for each year since high school.
  14. Bake 12 different recipes of cookies and cut each recipe into an unique shape using our Year Of Cookies cookie cutters we were gifted for our wedding.
  15. Spend at least two months blogging consistently (five days a week).
  16. Watch Gone With the Wind again.
  17. Organize all my workout and recipe clippings from magazines into navigable binders/digital files.

Career

  1. Start a history podcast and publish at least three episodes.
  2. Organize all my previously written swim practices and planning into navigable binders/digital files.
  3. Obtain a full-time classroom position and/or begin earning my masters degree.
  4. Learn all of the world’s capital cities and the names and locations of major rivers, mountains, etc.
  5. Develop my Honors Project (from college) into a full book.
  6. Organize all my lesson plans and resources into navigable binders/digital files.
  7. Find a way to combine my loves of social media and the field of education into something that serves a resource and/or community for either teachers or students.
  8. Truly study (not just skim/index through) all the swimming books I own and organize my notes on them into navigable binders/digital files.

Things That Scare Me

  1. Sing karaoke
  2. Buy a bikini and wear it in public.
  3. Get another tattoo.

Finances

  1. Pay off the Honda Civic Dan and I purchased in March 2013 ahead of schedule.
  2. Save at least $5,000.
  3. Create a solid budget and begin cultivating spending/saving tracking habits by following it successfully for at least two months.
  4. Finish changing name on all accounts/relevant records.
  5. Write a will and a living will.

Home

  1. Buy big plastic bins and use them to organize the storage space/seasonal decorations.
  2. Set up a home office.
  3. Create and implement a rotating cleaning schedule and follow it for at least two months straight.
  4. Do an intake of my belongings, donate or toss what I don’t need, and organize what I am keeping.
  5. Find a more effective system for receiving mail, disposing of it/filing it, and responding to it.
  6. Style our bedroom.
  7. Style our living room.
  8. Buy an actual address book and use it.
  9. Clean my car and keep it tidy for at least two months.

Fashion/Beauty

  1. Find a skincare regimen that works for me and follow it for at least 30 days.
  2. Buy a grown up watch, and wear it regularly.
  3. Learn 5 new ways to style my hair.
  4. Get a pedicure.
  5. Find the perfect little black dress.
  6. Get grown-up luggage and use it (instead of using my backpack from high school!).
  7. Find my “signature scent.”
  8. Purchase a monogrammed bracelet or necklace.

 End date: September 27, 2016    

 

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