Friday, January 2, 2015

Well, Hello There, 2015!

Do you realize that we have reached the year that Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled to in Back to the Future II?

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Well, Doc, we do still need roads in 2015, and I don't have a Hover board yet either.  I guess I'll get over it.

So anyway, I had a moment of inspiration that caused me to grab the lap top and write a real time post for you all.  I thought I'd start by sharing a few of my top posts from 2014.

My Top 5 Posts from 2014
1. To Stitch Fix or Not October 6th- 573 views (P.S. I had a friend sign up for Stitchfix, which gave me an extra credit so I got a fourth one.  It was a hit!  I actually bought the whole box, and it wasn't insanely expensive either!)
2. I Need Your Help April 26th- 254 views
3. Live & Learn Thursday: Buffalo Chicken Dip February 6th- 229 views
4. *sigh* February 27th- 214 views
5. Why I Failed the #100HappyDays Challenge July 22nd- 174 views

If you've been around here for awhile, I have mentioned that I don't like New Year's Resolutions.  I think I've discovered is that I don't like them because they're unrealistic.  People start out their years with resolutions to completely overhaul their lives, and while the intentions might be good, the ideas are almost impossible to achieve.  I'm sure there are people out there who make and keep resolutions, and kudos to them!  For me, I've decided that rather than swear off "resolutions" completely, as in the past, I want to set goals.  I know a lot of the bloggers I follow have done the same thing.  So here are some of my goals for 2015:

Health & Fitness
~Continue to work out at least 3x a week.
It seems that every time I think I'll get in 4 workouts, something comes up.  I always say I'm not designed for more than 3 workouts a week!  haha  
~Find online videos to do yoga or pilates at least 2x a month (on weekends or non-gym days).
~Add healthier foods to lunch 2x a week.
My current plan for this is to start having baby carrots as a side instead of chips (even though, I do portion control to stay within my calorie limit).  I also want to have grapes or nuts for a snack or dessert.
~MEAL PLAN!
I need to to this.  Since Scott found out that he can't have gluten our "pull it from the freezer and throw it in the oven" sort of meal planning doesn't quite work.  Plus, with my work out routine, there are times that I need to have dinner cooking in a crock pot or something planned that's quick for when he works nights.
~Complete an obstacle race.
Scott and I have plans to do one this summer!


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~Run a 5k.
This goal surprised me when I came up with it.  I HATE running.  But now that I can run a mile on the treadmill without feeling like I will die, I want to push myself.  :-p  

Reading
~I set a reading goal of 30 books for 2015.
Since I read 27 in 2014, I thought that was reasonable and possible.  You can see my 2014 books here.  You can also follow me on Goodreads to see what I'm reading.

Blogging
I had a hard time with blogging in 2014.  I am busy, and I value my downtime.  This often means, I just don't feel like typing...even though that's not hard work or anything.  But I don't like disappearing completely.  So I did set a small and manageable blogging goal.
~Blog at least 2x a month.

Happy New Year, everyone!  I hope that this year is better than the last!

What are your goals for 2015?

(By the way, have you entered my giveaway for Reshaping it All by Candace Cameron Bure?  There's only 4 days left to enter!)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Books

Another year has come and gone, and I've been doing a lot of reading this year.  (Well, not nearly as much reading as I would like, but I think I did well considering my lack of time.)

Here's what I read last year: 2013 Books

In case you didn't go back, I read 18 books last year.  I decided to make a realistic goal based on that number, and for 2014, I set a goal of 20 books.

This year, I actually read 27 books!  So I totally blew my goal out of the water.  Here's what I read:
(All images are from Goodreads.com)

1. A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir

The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins
2. Gregor the Overlander

3. Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane

4. Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods

5. Gregor and the Marks of Secret

6. Gregor and the Code of Claw

7. The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson

8. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

9. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
10. The Magician's Nephew

11. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

12. The Horse and His Boy

13. Prince Caspian

14. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

15. The Silver Chair

16. The Last Battle

17. Bossy Pants by Tina Fey

18. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

19. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

20. Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth

21. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

22. Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly

23. Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

24. Son by Lois Lowry

25. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

26. The Maze Runner by James Daschner

27. Reshaping it All by Candace Cameron Bure


It also looks like I reviewed MOST of my books with you!  I think that when I read as series, I will continue to review the series as a whole like I did for The Chronicles of Narnia.  It was just easier that way, and it gives my thoughts on all of the books, unlike The Underland Chronicles.

This year, thanks to a free trial e-mail, and my friend (and fellow blogger) Kristin who always talks about audio books, I started to download and listen to books with Audible from Amazon.  This is a nice change for my commute to and from work.  I love music, but I'm just tired of everything on my iPod.  So I listened to Eat, Pray, Love, Killing Kennedy, and Food: A Love Story.  Coming up for 2015, I will be listening to Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly (currently listening to this), Yes Please by Amy Poehler, and the Serial podcasts.

My reading goal for 2015 is going to be 30 books!  I have a long list of books to get working on.  I have one more that I received for Christmas, and I have quite a few coming from my school's fall book fair.

Happy Reading in 2015!!


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review: Reshaping it All

I got two books for Christmas this year, and the first one I decided to read was Reshaping it All by Candace Cameron Bure.  I honestly just didn't feel like typing a review about it.  So I made a vlog for you all!



I may actually try to do book reviews like this in the New Year.  I felt like I was able to share more, and it was easy to do pretty much right after I finished reading the book.  This way, I don't seem to forget all of the brilliant things that I want to say about the book because I don't have time to write a post.  This was quick and easy!

I've decided to share this book with one of you!  I loved it, but to me, it's not one of those re-readable books.  Please remember, as I said in the video, my mom had a hard time finding this for me for Christmas.  So the book is large print, and it used to belong to a library somewhere.  But whatever, a book is a book, right?!   So anyway, please enter to win! :)




Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's Christmas Eve Eve!

My friend, Kristin, posted this survey on her blog the other day, and since it pertains to all things Christmas, I decided I'd share it, too!

Before Christmas…
Do you send out Christmas cards?
I do! A couple of years ago, I realized that just because we didn't have kids, doesn't mean we can't send out picture cards!  So I use pictures of Scott and I from the beginning of the year until Halloween or Thanksgiving.  It's like a family newsletter without all the boring words! ;)
How soon do you start shopping?
I always have these ambitions of getting everything done by the end of November.  In reality, I don't usually end up shopping until the month of November.  
Do you have a lot of gifts to buy?
Not a ton.  Since we don't have kids, it's just one or two things for friends and family.  When my friends started having kids, I used to try to send a little something to all of them, but that's just become impossible these days! lol
Do you bake cookies?
Yes, I do!  This year, my friend, Kim, and I spent a Saturday in November baking!  I made Gluten Free Oatmeal cookies for Scott, and then we made chocolate chip, Grandma's Cut Out Cookies, Peanut Butter Blossoms, and Lady Locks (a pie-type pastry filled with frosting).  Then we froze everything until we needed them!

Decorations…
Do you put up a Christmas tree?
I didn't this year.  :(  We are constantly and forever working on remodeling our house.  The current forever-long project is our upstairs bathroom.  So Scott has tools and parts and a ton of other stuff in the room where I put up the tree.  It just wasn't worth the stress this year.  
If so, is it fake or real? 
Our tree is fake. 
Do you like tinsel?
Only in garland form!  (I have to agree with Kristin on this one, but I don't actually put any on my tree....)
Do you use homemade or store bought ornaments? 
For the past couple of years, it was a mixture of both because my mom gave me all of the ornaments that I made as a kid or that were bought for me when I was little.  This year, had I put up my tree, it was going to be all store bought ornaments.  Last year, when ornaments were on clearance, I got two sets of ornaments that are pink, silver, and lime green.  I just need a couple sets of all purple ornaments, and my tree next year is going up come hell or high water!! 
Do you put Christmas lights outside your house?
*sigh* I tried this year.  I haven't yet.  Every year, I say I will.  This year, I wrapped some pine garland around the banisters, and I started to put up a set of lights.  Things weren't working out, and once I finally figured how I could have them all strung together, the sets I had (given to us by Scott's mom) were half-out, and I just threw in the towel.  The lights are ancient and are really hard to check to switch out the bulbs.  Scott is also Mr. Scrooge, so I didn't want to spend any more money to get lights this year.  Clearance sales....look out!
Do you put lights on the tree? 
Of course!  I used to use the above lights when I put up the tree.  They were colored.  For my specific color theme, I decided to grab clear lights.
How about popcorn and cranberries?
No.  Who has time for that?
Is there a wreath hanging on your door?
I DID, at least, get a wreath on my door!  I made that myself.  SUPER easy!
  

Christmas Eve…
Do you celebrate it?
Is Santa jolly?  lol  My family has always gotten together on Christmas Eve.  When we were little, it used to be at my parents' house.  For probably 10 years or so, it's been at my aunt and uncle's house.  We just get together to eat and talk....some of our best abilities.  When I was younger, my nana used to make us grab bags of stuff she picked up throughout the year.  My brother referred to them as Nana's Bag O' Stuff.  It summed it up pretty well.  
Do you hang up your stocking?
I have in past years, but as we have discussed, I kind of threw in the towel on decorating this year.
Have you ever left cookies out for Santa?
When I was little, of course! 
Favorite…
Christmas Movie?
Just ONE!?  Are you kidding me!?  Ok, I'd have to say it's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  White Christmas with Bing Crosby is a CLOSE second.  I also love the Santa Clause movies, the first two Home Alone movies, and the classic cartoons!  And have you seen some of the made for TV movies on ABC Family and The Hallmark Channel??  Holiday in Handcuffs is one of my favorite ABC Family Originals.  
Character from any Christmas Movie?
I would have to say, I do love Scott Calvin (aka Santa Claus) from the Santa Clause movies.
Christmas Song?
This one is easier, surprisingly, because you all know how much I love Christmas music.  But every time I'm asked, I always have the same answer: my favorite religious Christmas song is "O, Holy Night" and my favorite non-religious song is "White Christmas."
Christmas Memory?
I love thinking back to when I was little.  My brother and I would wake up my parents, and Mom would go down to make breakfast, and Dad would go put on the Christmas records.  Then when breakfast was ready, my dad would carry us each down the stairs with my blanket over our heads so we couldn't see the gifts under the tree yet.  We HAD to eat breakfast before presents (and we STILL do!).  I also loved when we would decorate for Christmas together because my dad would play Christmas music and we would all pitch in.
Christmas Cookie?
I haven't met many cookies I don't like.  But chocolate chip and peanut butter blossoms are always at the top of my list. :)
This or That…
Give or Receive?
I love giving gifts!
Ham or Turkey?
I always take both, but I like ham more!
Star or Angel?
I have a star.
White Lights or Coloured Lights?
White lights for my tree....colored for outside
Blinking Lights or Still Lights?
Still.  For goodness sake.  The blinking lights are unnecessary.
Were you Naughty or Nice this year?
I'm gonna say mostly nice....I think.

Presents…
What do you want for Christmas this year?
I really, really, really want a FitBit.  I asked my parents for one.  If I don't get it, it is highly likely that I will buy one for myself.  lol
When do you open your gifts?
Christmas morning with my parents and brother.  Scott usually works on Christmas, and this year is no exception. He's on night shift.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten?
I honestly don't know...I would say that getting my keyboard a few years ago was pretty awesome.  I had been wanting one for YEARS, and if I would've been able to have one when I was in high school, I might be a much better piano player today....
What’s the worst gift you’ve ever gotten?
I honestly don't think that I've ever gotten something that I've hated.  A few times, my mom has gotten me clothes that I loved, but didn't fit. 
Do you like wrapping gifts?
No!  I'm currently taking a break from this right now.  And I'm totally cheating this year.  Almost everything I'm giving is in a gift bag! 
Random…
Can you name all the reindeer?
Uh yeah.  Who can't: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen.
Have you ever gotten a kiss under the mistletoe?
No!
Do you go caroling?
I have.  It's not a regular thing.  Two years ago, my family went to sing for my uncle's mom and then my grandfather.  I'm so glad we did because they both passed away the following summer within a couple weeks of each other.  It's a sad, but fond memory for me. 
Do you drive around and look at the Christmas lights? 
Not intentionally these days, but it was one of my favorite things to do at Christmas with my family!
Have you ever had a white Christmas?
Yes, but it's been awhile.  And it looks like it's not going to happen this year either.  :(
Who do you celebrate Christmas with?
My family...since Scott is usually working.  This year, I am going to stop by to see his family for a bit.
Have you ever had your picture taken with Santa? 
I'm sure I have.  Not since I was little, though!
What part of Christmas do you look most forward to?
Being with my family.  We love each other's company.  We all make good food, and it's fun watching the kids open their gifts.  


Monday, December 22, 2014

Music Monday: The Night Before...the Night Before...the Night Before Christmas

So I might have gotten carried away with the title, but I couldn't resist.  That's where we are on this Monday night, and I'm blogging in real time for a few reasons:

1) I've been scarce around these parts.  I've been trying my best to read and comment on the blogs I love, but writing my own blog posts has not been a priority for me as of late.

2) Today was my last day of work, and I'm officially on Christmas break.

3) I couldn't let it be the Monday before Christmas and not write some more about Christmas music, and this is a post I thought of a couple of weeks ago.


So I was singing away to the Christmas music on my way to work the other day, and I started to think, "If I ever got to record a Christmas album, what songs would I want to sing?"

Here's what I came up with (and in parentheses, I note my favorite versions, where appropriate):

1. White Christmas (Bing Crosby)
2. Merry Christmas, Darling (Karen Carpenter)
3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland)
4. Baby, It's Cold Outside (Dean Martin & Doris Day) I would want to sing this with: Blake Shelton or Adam Levine....just to be clear.
5. All I want for Christmas is You (Lady Antebellum)
6. Do You Hear What I Hear (Glee Cast) This version is a gorgeous duet that wasn't featured in the show, and also doesn't seem to actually feature any of the cast members I recognize.  Anyway, I think I'd like to sing it with Lea Michele.
7. Silent Night
8. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
9. Winter Wonderland
10. O, Holy Night

On an impulse, I actually recorded and posted a YouTube video of me singing "O, Holy Night" acapella. 


It is my plan to blog a bit more over the next couple of days, and definitely more over my break from work!

But just in case my plans fall through, I wish you all a VERY Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Book Review: Son

In the summer of 2013, I reread The Giver.  I was moving from first grade to sixth, and I had discovered that The Giver was the first in a series of books.  So I ordered them through a Scholastic Book Order and read the first three books: The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger.  There was a fourth book that I hadn't been able to get my hands on yet, called Son.  (This was especially strange because it was just released in 2012.  This one was available in a book order this year, and I snagged it right away!

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Synopsis from Goodreads.com:

They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice. 

Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messengerwhere a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.


My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this conclusion to the series.  As I mentioned in my review of the first three books, the books seem to have nothing to do with each other.  Messenger ties together the first two a little, but there are still so many unanswered questions.  Son finally brings a conclusion to the entire series.  It actually begins from Claire's perspective during the time that The Giver took place.  That was probably my favorite part of the story.  Seeing another perspective of what took place while things were changing in Jonas' life was really interesting.  The middle part of the book was pretty strange, and it is mysterious how and why Claire ends up in this new seemingly unfuturistic community.  Lowry never really answers that, but the end does bring about a satisfying conclusion.  

I gave it 5/5 Stars!

If you have read The Giver and the other books, I highly recommend that you bring yourself closure by reading Son.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Music Monday: Did I Really Listen to That?


I know some of you think it's too early for Christmas music, but not here in my world!  :)  I know that I usually rave about songs and/or albums that I love at Christmas. 

Today, I talk about one that I wish I hadn't wasted my time listening to.  Luckily, I bought it at a yard sale (from my brother, nonetheless) for $1.  


I'm not a huge Kenny Chesney fan.  In fact, I wouldn't even rank him in my Top 10  20 country artists.  I like some of his songs that they play on country radio.  Because of that, my love for country music, and my love for Christmas music, I decided to give this CD a try.

I hated it.  Even the traditional carols weren't very good.  For me, I think this was because they were slowed down unnecessarily.  I mean, I'm sorry, but "Jingle Bells" is supposed to be a pretty upbeat and peppy song, Kenny.  What were you thinking?

And while I do love Bing Crosby's version of "Mele Kalikimaka," I'm not otherwise a huge song of island-y, tropical Christmas songs.  I know that not everyone lives where there's snow, but doesn't everyone still want a white Christmas?!  ("Mele Kalikimaka" doesn't bother me because it's specifically stating that this is the Hawaiian Christmas greeting.  AND it's Bing Crosby!).  So the title track was just irritating to me.  Not to mention that it's really not the most grammatically correct title.

There are actually two redeeming songs on this album.  "Christmas in Dixie" features Randy Owen.  I'm not sure if it's because it's one I've heard before or if it's because there's less on Kenny Chesney singing in the song, but this one is pretty good.  "Just a Kid" is also a beautiful song with a really good message to it.  I just think it would be a million times better is someone else was actually singing it.


Have you heard this album?  What did you think?

 
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