Friday, January 9, 2015

Resolutions: Thrive in 2-0-1-5

New year. New goals. New determination. 

So I have found that when I don't really invest my time in thinking about my resolutions, making them visible to me, etc., I am terrible at keeping them. So, to help keep me motivated, I've dressed up my resolutions and hung them where I'll see them every day, and I'm announcing them here so that I'm also more accountable. 

I've also got a monthly list that I'm using to stay on track and meet smaller goals along the way. If I realize there's no way I'll stay on track, I'll okay with changing the resolution so I don't sour on the whole thing.

Pare down and reorganize

I started this in December - and the feel of getting rid of all stuff I didn't need, and never used was LIBERATING. So I found this 30 Days of Decluttering list on Pinterest, and just modified it to suit my own needs and space. 
  • Get rid of 50 things by December
  • 30 Days of Decluttering List by April

Cook! 

A helpful reminder not to get lazy in the kitchen and fall into a rut. If I'm really good, maybe I'll even post them on my Sponge for Knowledge in the Kitchen blog. 
  • Try a new recipe once a month - Learn standard things if you don't already know (cook a roast, etc.) and try new recipes that are lower in calories and more nutritious so I can incorporate them into my repertoire.
  • One new on-the-go breakfast a month - I love on-the-go things! I need to make sure that I have stuff on hand to grab as I rush out the door - muffins, turnovers, more! 

Take a monthly trip

This is just a helpful reminder to keep me from staying stagnant. Some things I want to do: 
  • Renew passport!
  • Visit sister-in-law in Indiana
  • Go camping
  • Smithsonian museums and National Zoo
  • Ziplining and white water rafting on the New River
  • Visit cool cities/places: Niagara Falls, New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta, Annapolis, NYC, etc. (Not all of these, obviously, but maybe

Be Healthy and Fit

Okay, so maybe most people have this on their list every year. But I've been doing a pretty good job this year so far since I got the MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness apps. MyFitnessPal has been immensely helpful - I've been paying a lot more attention to how much I eat, snack, and drink in general, and I have lost 7lbs so far, and am almost at my 10 lbs. goal. That's also after falling off the wagon a few times, and through the holidays. Plus, 
  • Log food in MyFitnessPal at least 3x a week (complete an entire day)
  • Get a physical this year! (It's been way too long...)
  • Fitness: 2x a week exercise & walk 15 minutes 3x a week
  • Be able to do a pull up by the end of the year. I just want to know that if I'm hanging off a cliff from my fingertips, I'll be able to save myself. Could I do that now? No. Quit judging.

Be well: Mental Wellness

When I get over-stressed, I suck at things and am generally less animated, which feels very funny on me. These goals will help fix that, I think. 
  • Be able to meditate 15 minutes straight by the end of the year (without a guide)
  • Schedule weekly 1-hour date with myself
  • Sleep better (I'm embarrassed to say that my starting goal is to go to bed by midnight at least once a week, which has already proved challenging. I'm a night owl by heart, but sleep is healthy for my brains, so I will do this and maybe increase that to several days a week in a few months.)
  • Fill up 1 journal by December (This is a cross-goal with my writing section, see below)

Save More: Finances

If you're making your own money goals, I'd recommend putting amounts next to them as well - I did that, but just didn't post them here. 
  • Pay off one student loan in full by end of the year
  • Save for a down payment on a house (could it be this year?!)
  • Open a mutual fund
  • Add to IRA this year

Love: Marriage Goals

Gotta keep us on track, you know. We'll celebrate our five year anniversary this year! 
  • Be open and let things go (Measurable? Maybe not, but it is a good reminder)
  • Monthly love letters
  • Monthly date night 

Create

More arts, please. Maybe I'll get around to posting pictures of them sometime? 
  • Schedule time & make space for creativity (my two greatest nemeses to my art)
  • Fill up one sketchpad (Woo! Zentangling, sketching, coloring, whatever.)
  • Do 3 oil paintings (Up from the one I do every 3 years).
  • Do 2 watercolors (Not my favorite medium, but fun as a refresher every once in a while)

Read & Write

My goals here aren't crazy, but they are solid and reachable enough that I can stick to them. 
  • Read 60 books. (Not extravagant, I know, but this is why I hope I reach it)
  • Read 10 short stories. 
  • Finish your novel! I will beat NaNoWriMo this year. 
  • Write a short story, a poem, and a song. 
  • Blog monthly. Again, not setting my sights too high, but my blogging goals have been tricky for me in the past. So with this post, I've got two in one month and I've doubled my expected productivity!
  • Finish one whole journal (again, a joint mental wellness and writing goal)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014: My Year in Books


Well, it's that time of year again. Goodreads has been especially useful in helping me track the books that I've read this year. I didn't read quite as many as last year, but considering most of them were bonafide adult books this year, it's not too shabby a list.

This was a year that I really went through some books that I didn't feel like finishing too - but don't judge too harshly. I have come to find that I have far and away too many books on my to-read list to bother with things that don't interest me, or just aren't my thing. I give most of them a fair shake, but if I've tried and it doesn't hook me, I'm okay with letting it go. This is something I haven't been great at thus far, but I'm getting to that point where I'm alright with it. I'll explain why in the short synopsis.

  1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
    • Image from goodreads.com
    • Awesome - loved seeing different sides of the same story, the perspective in this really cinched it for me. 
  2. The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech
    • Having loved Creech growing up, I was slightly disappointed. This was fine, but weird. Not in my typical love of weird. But weird.
  3. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
    • This was fine. Still wishing it was the Hunger Games...
  4. Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
    • Great for young adult Jane Austen fans - fun and light reading. 
  5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 
    • First Jojo Moyes book and now I'm hooked. Great for fans who like moral dilemma in a British-Picoult kind of way, but a little more romance. Nothing gushy though, and I liked that. 
  6. The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes
    • Incredible love story spanning decades. Great sense of place. Obviously, I needed another of Moyes' right away.
  7. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
    • I am not allegiant to this series. Boring. Dull. Characters going totally against their character (here's to looking at you, Four). Also, Tris? I don't care. 
  8. Winger by Andrew Smith
    • Great for John Green fans - especially Looking for Alaska. Maybe a little too much, but still good for a boarding school book. 
  9. Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
    • Alterate history of the west with DRAGONS and other magical beings. I was duped - this book turned out to be SO BORING and didn't do any of the cool things it could have done. None of my teens liked it for book club either. So disappointed - I loved her Enchanted Forest series growing up. 
  10. The Circle by Dave Eggers
    • Freaked me out that this is what our world is coming to, with Google and the Internet taking over our lives, and us just sheep letting it take all of our information. Still gives me chills.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

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Image from Goodreads.com 

Book review of : First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Publication date: January 20, 2015

Summary: 

In this sequel to Addison's magical Garden Spells, readers are transported back to the small Southern town of Bascom, North Carolina ten years after Sydney and her daughter Bay have returned to put down roots and reconnect with Sydney's sister, Claire. All Waverley women have unique gifts and fifteen-year-old Bay is no different. Bay's is knowing where everything belongs, sometimes even people. But it's complicated having this gift, especially when she knows that the soccer star at school is supposed to be in her life somehow, even when barely knows she exists.

Claire's catering business has been put on hold as she delves into the candy-making business, which is lucrative if a bit time-consuming. And Sydney longs to have another baby, but it doesn't look like it's in the cards for her. Everything will come to a head when a mysterious stranger comes to town asking questions about their family.  Luckily, the first frost is creeping closer, a special time for the Waverley women.

Thoughts and Impressions:

Sarah Addison Allen has yet to disappoint. I was both excited and a bit anxious to read this because Garden Spells is my favorite of Allen's novels, and I was worried that it might not measure up. While not holding quite the same magic for me as its predecessor, I really enjoyed jumping back into the world of the Waverleys. Allen paints a beautiful picture of a small Southern town with all of its quirks and characters, and her writing is exquisitely descriptive without being overwrought.

Allen  does a good job of giving readers enough information about the first book without bashing you over the head with it,  making this novel work as a standalone as well. It was very refreshing not to have to reread Garden Spells to pick back up where I'd left off.

I do think that this book is wrapped up a little too neatly, taking away from the realistic quality of the story. I felt at times that her characters were just a little too good, and their conflicts could have been a little conflicted - I didn't feel that they had enough of a struggle, or if there was, it wasn't quite deep enough for me.  This book is great for a short, light feel-good read, leaving readers warm, fuzzy, and satisfied.

This is an easy book to recommend to any age - Claire and Sydney will connect with adult women and mothers, Bay's story line will connect with younger readers, and Claire and Sydney's vibrant cousin Evanelle will connect with older readers. It's also a great gentle read - no sex or swearing to be found.

What to Read Next? 

Sarah Addison Allen's books combine magical realism with Southern charm, and I'd recommend this to fans of Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate (if you like magical realism involving food), Lisa Van Allen's The Wishing Thread (if you like the small-town feel, magical realism, sister-connection), Erica Bauermeister's The School of Essential Ingredients (if you liked the food narrative and multiple story lines), and Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap (for the small-town feel and strong female characters).

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin's Press for a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.