Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and it's a way to share what you're loving in list form. The topic changes every week, so there is always something new to discover!
This week's topic is:  Best Books I've Read in 2015 (So Far).  I always love doing this topic!

Here are my best for the year to date (in no particular order)...
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

1984 by George Orwell

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Slammed by Colleen Hoover
The Revenge of Seven  by Pittacus Lore

What are some of the best books you've read so far this year?

Happy reading!

Beyond the Books: Collections

With the unfortunate demise of Jessi's "Life of a Blogger" feature on her blog, Karen, over at Kissin Blue Karen, has adapted the idea into something similar (with permission from Jessi) for fellow bloggers to partake in.  While I didn't participate as often as I wanted to in the past, with Summer coming along I should be able to draft some posts for this feature more often.

This week's topic for Beyond the Books is:  Things I Collect.  Now, in general, I'm not necessarily a collector of "things", but there are some items that I tend to always pick up when shopping/traveling/exploring/antiquing/etc.  In no particular order...

A close up of my much used map while living in Vienna

I have an affinity for maps...old maps, maps I've used, maps with writing on them, all maps.  I don't know what it is...perhaps the fact that they represent traveling or something...but maps have always interested me.  I have a framed map of Vienna in my living room.  It has holes in it, writing on it, and it's definitely seen better days, but that map was my lifeline when I was living in the city.  It got me everywhere I needed to go and I think it's beautiful.  I also have a GIANT wall map of Edinburgh that I purchased once I returned from living there.  I have yet to get it framed because the size alone pushes the framing costs to over $600 bucks...yikes!!!  It's still beautiful though :)  I have a couple maps that I've pasted in a journal while traveling (easy, small city maps given out at hostels).  Maps are great ways to really see a city and "map" (haha) your journey.

Books (obviously)
Clearly I need to dust...

I like vintage books for decorative purposes.  They look so beautiful sitting on bookshelves with randomness surrounding them.  Don't get me wrong though, I have tons (TONS) of non-vintage books shoved onto my bookshelves as well, but there's something about finding a gem in an antique shop.  I recently picked up this beautiful vintage book about Gypsies.  It's dark green with silver and blue foils.  Stunning.  No thrift shop/antiquing/garage sale trip is complete without perusing the books.


I love cookbooks.  So much so that I have an entire bookshelf in my kitchen devoted to them and from all different cuisines.  I've got the traditional Betty Crocker and then there is Polish, German, Italian, Southern, Jewish, Scottish, Thai, etc.  I have a cookbook dedicated to only using one pot and one for crockpots and ones for only cookies and cooking for two.  I have one where every recipe is comprised of four ingredients and one for casseroles.  I even have one that revolves around the use of Twinkies.  Cookbooks are my jam!

Key Chains

When  traveling, I would always pick up interesting key chains.  If it is a bottle opener, even better!  While I tend to purchase them and then give them away, I still have several that I just can't part with.  For example, my "I Love Scotland" bottle opener on my key ring.  The broken clogs from The Netherlands.  A miniature boy in traditional German lederhosen.  Two Japanese protection lions from Okinawa.  They're all completely trivial and nobody (NOBODY) needs that many key chains, but there's something satisfying about them...

What do you collect, if anything?

Happy reading!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Writer's Workshop: I'd Live There

Kat had some great prompts this week, but I'm going to go with hotels I'd love to live in.  Pure fantasy and dreaming!

Sylvia Beach Hotel:  Newport, Oregon

The most local and, probably, the most plausible for a visit on the list, the Sylvia Beach Hotel is a book lovers dream.  Each room is modeled after a specific author/work, they have a massive library on the top floor, the restaurant is called the Tables of Content, and there are no TVs or WiFi access.  Added bonus, you're able to visit the hotel even if you aren't staying there.  Any room that is empty is open to explore.  I've done this!  So awesome.  Plus, it's right on the beach :)

Hotel Sacher Wien:  Vienna, Austria

Possibly one of the most famous hotels in Austria, the Hotel Sacher is renowned for its sacher torte, a delicious concoction of dense chocolate cake with a marmalade filling and chocolate ganache.  It's perfect with a cup of coffee to tone down the richness of the cake.  Aside from that, the central location is spot on for exploring Vienna and the pedestrian district in general.

Chateau Marmot:  Los Angeles, California

Celebrity sightings...that's why!  Plus, it looks like a castle and it's beautifully decorated :)

Le Taha'a Island Resort and Spa:  French Polynesia

The location and scenery is absolutely beautiful.  Who wouldn't want to lounge on those beaches and frolic through that crystal clear blue water?  That's what dreams are made of!  Plus, those bungalows are a romantic's dream...

Villa D'Este:  Cernobbio, Italy

An absolutely beautiful location, Lake Como in Italy, and the possibility of being invited over for dinner with George and Amal...right?  No?  Hm....  Regardless, it's still an awesome place!

The Stanley Hotel:  Estes Park, Colorado

Why the Stanley?  Because of Stephen King and The Shining.  I want to hunt ghosts (you can request the Ghost Adventures Package)!  Plus, the location is pretty beautiful and it's a historical hotel.  Right up my alley. 

The Savoy:  London, England
Probably the most famous hotel in London, The Savoy is a stomping ground for the world's rich and famous.  Plus, its central location along the Thames and Covent Garden's shopping district is pretty spot on.

Mena House Oberoi:  Giza-Cairo, Egypt

Situated with amazing views of the Pyramids in Giza, this would be an awesome hotel to stay in.  Visible from nearly every room and within 700 feet, the Pyramids are the real stars of this hotel.  Gorgeous.
Park Hyatt:  Sydney, Australia

Located right on Sydney Harbor, the Park Hyatt offers beautiful views of the Sydney Opera House and many other landmarks.  It's a clean, contemporary hotel with many amenities.  One can dream, right?

The Plaza:  New York City, New York

Can you even have a list of hotels to live in without including the Plaza?  I mean, it was good enough for Eloise and it's where every NYC bride wants to get married.  It's just so iconic!  Plus, 24-hour butler service?  Yes, please!
Honorable Mentions
What hotels would you love to live in?  The possibilities are nearly endless!

Writer's Workshop is hosted by Kat at Mama's Losin' It

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Re-Read Like The First Time

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and it's a way to share what you're loving in list form. The topic changes every week, so there is always something new to discover!

This week's topic is:  Top Ten Books On My TBR For Summer 2015.  While I love this topic, I feel like we just did it last month (see:  Books in Your Beach Bag).  So, instead, I'm going to do Top Ten Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time.  This has nothing to do with the actual topic, but it's a topic I missed for TTT in the past.  So there!

In no particular order:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Harry Potter by JK Rowling...duh

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Night by Elie Wiesel
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

What are some books that you wish you could re-read for the first time?

Also, look for next week's Top Ten:  Favorite Top Ten Topics from the Past

Happy reading!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Putting Hellmann's to the Test

I have been a product reviewer for about a year with Influenster and have been able to offer my opinions on a variety of things.  This time around, I was sent the newly designed Hellmann's Mayonnaise to test out.  While I am not the hugest fan of mayo in general, I find the new packaging to offer many positive attributes!

First, the shape of the bottle allows for the mayo to settle near the opening, unlike traditional containers.  In addition, the improved plastic spout allows for better stabilization of the bottle.  It's great because it has less of a tendency to fall over in the fridge than the old design with the smaller top.  Genius! 

I did put mayo on my sandwich this time around, but it's just not one of my favorite condiments in general.  I'm a mustard girl.  Regardless, the product tastes great and the bottle design is pretty awesome.  I definitely recommend purchasing this newly improved packaging for your mayo needs :)

If you're interested in becoming a product reviewer, please let me know and I can get an invite sent out to you! 

Happy sandwich making!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Racing the Shore -- Flash Fiction Challenge

"Racing the Shore"

I ruffled the fur of his neck as we gazed across the river.  Charlie, my aging protector.  Always the first to greet me at the door and the last to take his eyes off me whenever I left the room.  He had been my constant companion for ten years and it was hard to believe that we were sitting here again; the very spot where our bond was forged years ago.  I silently thanked my father for the gift of Charlie and unhooked his leash.

“What do you say, boy?  One more adventure?”

And we raced along the shore.


This post is part of Charli Mills' Flash Fiction Challenge hosted by Carrot Ranch Communications

June 10, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an animal rescue. It can be a typical dog or cat rescue from the pound, or helping a critter less fortunate. Go where the prompt leads you.

The rules can be found here.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Prompt Box

A new resolution halfway through the year...

I recently discovered, through a great blog I stumbled across during the A-Z Challenge, the wonders of a Prompt Box (she'd posted about it recently).  Brilliant!  Why hadn't I thought of this?  I used prompts for years when I was teaching writing, but had never really applied them to myself.  Complete disconnect there...wow.  So I made one yesterday.

This is my Prompt Box.

I filled it with quotes, images, ideas, and things that inspire me.  Every time I pull a prompt out, I will replace it with a new inspiration.  Whatever I come across that speaks to me. 

With this box, I will finally begin to write the way I should be writing...the way I want to be writing.  Every. Damn. Day.  For a minimum of ten minutes; more if I am on a roll!

I might post some things.  Others I will not.  I believe, in this practice, I will find serenity, creativity, passion, and catharsis. 

How do you get jazzed to write?  Does anyone else use a prompt box?  And, if so, how does it work for you? 

Happy writing (and reading)!

Writer's Workshop: Disney Princesses

If I had to choose a Disney Princess to live the rest of my life as, it would be....

What makes Merida such a great choice?  Several things.  First, she isn't your typical Disney Princess.  She's unruly, marches to her own drum, and does not fit the often portrayed image of a traditional Disney Princess:  overly large eyes, impossibly tiny waist, ankles, feet, etc.  She's more robust.  Remember the outcry when Disney first released the newly sexualized images of Merida?  Case in point!  In addition to her appearance, Merida yearns for the options to choose her own fate.  She does not want a husband chosen for her or to be won in a competition.  This is not her idea of romance or destiny.  I also like the fact that, in the end, she doesn't end up with a prince who has to save her.  Instead, her mission is bonding and finding common ground with her mother.  In addition, Merida is a bad-ass archer!

"There are those who say fate is something beyond our command.  That destiny is not our own, but I know better.  Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it." --Merida


A very close second (and normally my first choice back in the day) simply due to the fact that she does not let tradition dictate her decisions; even if it means putting her and her family's lives in jeopardy, she makes decisions based on what she knows to be the right thing to do.  Mulan knows that her father would never make it back from war alive due to his previous injuries.  She also knows that women in China are meant to follow the rules, get matched through the province's matchmaker, and start a family.  This isn't for Mulan when something threatens her family.  Disguising herself as a boy allows her to save not only her father, but her entire nation.  It also allows her to be herself.  Mulan/Ping's ideas often saved her company during skirmishes with the Mongolian invaders.  Without her, China might not have survived the invasion at all.  In the end, Mulan is heralded as a national hero.  While she does kind of end up with her commanding officer, Shang, the most important thing to take away is that she has brought honor to her family...as a strong, independent, self-sacrificing woman!

"You said you'd trust Ping.  Why is Mulan any different?" --Mulan

Which Disney Princess would you be?

Writer's Workshop is hosted by Kat at Mama's Losin' It

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday:  The Sandcastle Girls

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Jenn @ A Daily Rhythm. Here are the rules: grab whatever you're reading, open to a random page, select no more than two sentence (NO SPOILERS), share the title and author, and GO!

Here's today's teaser:
"The women look like dying wild animals as they lurch forward, some holding on to the walls of the stone houses to remain erect.  She has never in her life seen people so thin and wonders how in the name of God their bony legs can support them.  Their breasts are lost to their ribs.  The bones of their hips protrude like baskets.
          'Elizabeth, you don't need to watch,' her father is saying, but she does.  She does." --page 13

          The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

Haunting images of the Armenian Genocide...I know little of this...so tragic.

Happy reading!

Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated Releases

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and it's a way to share what you're loving in list form. The topic changes every week, so there is always something new to discover!
This week's topic is:  Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the Rest of 2015.  There are always so many books that I'm looking forward to getting my hands on.  Here are ten on my current radar:

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee -- July 14th

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty -- July 14th

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman -- August 4th

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz -- September 1st

The Fate of Ten by Pittacus Lore -- September 1st

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs -- September 22nd
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell -- October 6th

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor -- October 20th
Winter by Marissa Meyer -- November 10th

Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich -- November 17th

What books are you eagerly anticipating?

Also, look for next week's Top Ten:  Books on my  TBR for Summer 2015

Happy Reading!