Recently Read: Vol. 3

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Books are meant to be shared. And I promise, no spoilers!

I’m back for volume three of Recently Read. Sharing my thoughts and reviews on the books I’ve read in the past few weeks. You can read volume 1  and volume 2 here. Have you read any of these books?

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Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Three out of Five Stars

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.

Larson tells two stories happening side by side during the late 1800’s in Chicago. One is the massive planning, development, and execution of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The other is the true story of the serial killer that rampantly murdered hundreds of innocent victims while the city (and world) was blinded by the Fair’s brightness.

This book has been on my “to read” list since I lived in Chicago in 2009…and I think I had too high of expectations. Don’t get me wrong, this book is an incredible piece of work. I learned so many facts about the building of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The amount of passion and work put into the fair was amazing and it makes me sad that we no longer have similar expeditions. However, I was expecting the account of Dr. H. H. Holmes to be a little more…eh..graphic? (I don’t mean to sound overly morbid either) and more character development. 

Overall, the facts and the history were very interesting, but I wanted a more personal connection with the historical characters. I wanted Larson to dive a little bit deeper into the psyche of the killer and relate it more to those of the architects in charge of the fair. To me, it read more like a historical biography rather than historical fiction. 


 

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The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

Five out of Five Stars

“Those were the reasons we both knew how deep love was, the shared pain that would outlast any pain we caused each other.”

“Teddy once told me that it’s natural that we feel alone, and that’s because our hearts are different from others and we don’t even know how. When we’re in love, as if by magic, our different hearts come together perfectly toward the same desire. Eventually, the differences return, and then comes heartache and mending, and, in between, much loneliness and fear. If love remains despite the pain of those differences, it must be guarded as rare.” 

I truly loved this book and couldn’t put it down. Tan is known for her simple, yet magical, prose, and in Valley of Amazement she once again laces together a beautiful and heart wrenching narrative about mothers and daughters and surviving as a woman during the turn of the century in Shanghai. 

The novel spans 80 years and two continents and weaves together the lives of three generations of women. The main character, Violet, the daughter of an American woman who manages a courtesan house, is kidnapped and sold as a virgin courtesan at a young age. As Violet endures every tragedy possible we stand beside her as she tries mercifully to hold onto hope, self-affirmation, love, and forgiveness. 

This book was a treasure and I enjoyed soaking up the words and history and the overpowering feelings of hope and love that surround mothers, daughter, and female friendships.


 

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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriaty

Four out of Five Stars

“Each memory, good and bad, was another invisible thread that bound them together…It was as simple and complicated as that. Love after children, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best…-well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”

“I’ve come to think that’s what heaven is- a place in the memory of others where our best selves live on.”

On a little bit of a lighter note, compared to the above Valley of Amazement, What Alice Forgot was a fun read that was equally has hard to put down. What I liked most about this book was Moriaty’s way of expressing heartbreaking life moments like infertility, divorce, and loss of self in such a refreshing, and yes, fun way.

If you woke up and couldn’t remember the last 10 years of your life, what would you wish you did different? This book is about Alice, a fun and vibrant 28 year old who is madly in love with her husband and is pregnant with her first child. She then wakes up, after a fall off a bike at the gym, to realize that she is now 38, mother of three children and currently divorcing her husband. She doesn’t recognize herself, her friends, or her family. So much has changed and she does her best to put together the missing pieces. 

A great reminder to hold on to what is important to you, no matter what life throws your way. 


 

What have you been reading?

Think Positive Mondays: Celebrate the Small Things

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(Think Positive Monday: sharing tips and keeping me in line to live a happier and more positive life)

I love having an excuse to celebrate. A reason to break open a bottle of champagne, dig into some cake, gather around with friends, or take a night off from the regular routine. 

In our home, we make it a priority to celebrate the small moments and wins. Those small milestones need their own time to shine just as much as the big life accomplishments. When you think about it, those big accomplishments most likely wouldn’t have happened without the smaller ones. 

Finish a project at work? Receive an A+ from your dentist? Manage to de clutter your home office? Follow your workout regimen to a T? Pass a hard text at school? Go on an awesome date with a potential new partner? Make it to a Friday on a particularly bad week? Let’s celebrate!

By celebrating the small milestones in life we are acknowledging the journey, not just the destination. We all can benefit from celebrating the unique path that our lives are taking us and not just focusing on the end game. 

Also, when we acknowledge these small moments it allows us to recognize the gifts the journey is presenting us. We are forced to pay attention to the little positive aspects of our life, making us aware that good things DO happen to us. In turn, those positive memories stay with us for a lifetime. Reinforcing the idea when we truly need it, when the road gets tough. 

So take a moment. Celebrate the small moments, the small changes, and the small accomplishments before they slip away. Savor the champagne and enjoy every bite of that cake. Cheers to you! 

 

What’s New? Coffee Talk Vol. 4

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Hey there, I thought I’d use this Friday to do a little check in with you. Grab a coffee, let’s chat. If we were sitting down together, sharing a chat over coffee, this is what I’d tell you:

  • Although I still don’t like winter, this winter doesn’t seem so bad. Probably because the winter of 2014 was so awful and terrible, what with the never-ending snow and ice storms and negative temperatures. So far, this winter has seemed pretty mild in comparison. So that’s a plus. 
  • Last Friday, before we skipped town, we bought a new car. (This marks two new cars in one year, gasp!) I usually hate car shopping (all the small chat, all the hidden deals and messages) but this was pretty painless. We knew exactly what we wanted and we knew what we wanted to pay and we got it. We traded in my 2008 two-door Hyundai Tiburon and Ryan is now the proud driver of a 2015 Hyundai Elantra. I’m usually a sentimental sap, but I have to say I was not sad to say goodbye to Tabitha the Tiburon. Other than driving me home from Chicago after a terrible break up she’s been nothing but bad news for me. See ya! 
  • We’ve officially given up Comcast cable. It felt good to cut the cord (and cut down our ridiculous high bill). We got an Apple TV and it works great. We’re able to watch all the shows that we want and it works perfectly with Airplay on the Ipad. 
  • I’ve been reading a lot lately and will be sharing my latest book reviews next week, however I have a little secret. In addition to the “normal” books that I read, I’m also in a book club…that specifically reads books written by the girls from MTV’s Teen Mom and other fallen starlets (right now we’re consuming Jodi Sweetin’s book). They are ridiculous, sad, and highly entertaining. So far we’ve read Kailyn, Farrah, and Amber’s autobiographies.  Such guilty pleasures and so fun to discuss and gossip over. 
  • We watched a movie we had rented through Netflix mail order this past weekend (Monuments Men). While packing up the DVD to mail back I noticed that the traditional red and white Netflix envelope was decorated with spider webs and bats and said “Happy Halloween”. Yep, we’ve had a movie since early October. We just never got around to watching it. How long have you had a movie from Netflix? 
  • Another confession: my Christmas decorations are all still up. Yes, my Christmas tree hit the curb (isn’t that the saddest sight?) a few weeks ago, but all the other decorations are proudly on display. I’ve been too busy, lazy, sad to take them down. Maybe this weekend….

What is new with you? How is January treating you?

 

 

Weekend Getaway in Luray, VA

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For Christmas this year, I gifted Ryan a weekend away in the Shenandoah Valley. A pleasant 3.5 hour drive to Luray provided us with a getaway from everyday life and a chance to rest, relax, and reflect before he starts his last semester of school and before we must battle another winter.

I booked this awesome cabin through AirBnB. I mean check at this view from the house! We could never get enough of this view of the Shenandoah Valley and River.

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However, when I think of cabin, I think of rustic, small and cold. This was more of a house, complete with a huge fireplace, lots of cozy places to take in the view, Netflix, wifi, and Apple Tv. It was the perfect house to cozy up for the weekend, with little plans other than to relax, read, cook, and watch some movies. 

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We grabbed a delicious lunch at Gathering Grounds in the sleepy little valley town of Luray before driving up 2,200 ft to our home for the weekend. Ryan got to work making a fire and we changed into PJ’s and hibernated for the rest of the evening. The house had three huge bay windows overlooking the view that allowed us to enjoy the scenery despite the chilly temps. I made my favorite Martha’s Stewart Mac and Cheese. Comfort food at it’s best. 

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I loved walking out on the deck at night and gazing up at the stars. It felt like we were in them, so close and so bright.

Our host said that watching the sunrise was the best element of the house. So each morning I set my alarm and wearily crawled out of bed expecting to see a breathtaking view. Yet each morning it was the same. We were greeted with a sky full of dark clouds and nothing else. So back to bed we went.

On Sunday morning we decided to venture out and tour one of the local Caverns. I’ll be recapping that experience next week!

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After our caverns tour we hit up a small pub with a great happy hour before retreating back to the house for another night in front of the fire.

On Monday we slept in and leisurely spent the morning sipping coffee and reading before our noon check out time.

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After another great lunch at Gathering Grounds, We took Sky Line drive home in the Shenandoah National Park where we drove along the tips of the Blue Ridge mountains and were able to take in amazing views from all directions.

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Ryan’s New Career Plan

It’s been a long week so I thought I’d share a little fun on this Friday:

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So the other day, over drinks, Ryan started enthusiastically talking about taking a new path in life. Here was the enlightening conversation:

Ryan: Maybe I should quit law school and open up a brewery.

Katie: uh huh…

Ryan: I can make beer for a living and name them after my favorite TV characters.

Katie: 

Ryan: There would be a Ryan Hardy Ale from The Following. and the Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead. But, I’d just call it The Rick. It would taste like regular beer when you first drink it, but then it will change after a while into a different flavor.

Katie:

Ryan: Like a zombie changing. You know?

Katie: Sounds like a great plan…

Anybody ready to invest in this business venture?!

I hope you all had a good week and thank you for all your support and feedback on my blogging post. I loved reading all of your comments. 

We’re headed off for a weekend away in the Shenandoah Valley in VA. The trip was my Christmas gift to Ryan. We’re looking forward to a weekend of relaxation, reading in front of the fireplace, winery and brewery touring, cavern exploring, and overall coziness.

I’ll be taking off from my Think Positive Monday post. But follow along on Instagram for fun trip pics!

6 Reasons I’m A Bad Blogger

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Maybe I refuse to conform. Maybe I’m just lazy. I don’t know. I just know I’m a pretty bad blogger.

Others treat their blogs like mini side businesses. Drafting plans in pretty little planners and writing posts weeks ahead and actually scheduling them to be published. They have an advanced advertising and marketing plan, and promote themselves endlessly on all social media platforms. I commend them. If you’re one of those bloggers, good work! Also, when do you sleep?

I love this space and sharing my heart and words. I love the documentation and making new connections and friends with women from all over. But when it comes down to it, I’m not the best blogger.

Here’s 6 reasons why:

Consistency

I skipped out on yesterdays Think Positive Monday post because I’m recovering from a bout with the flu and had zero energy. I try to write Monday, Wednesday, and Friday but lately it’s only been twice a week. Hell sometimes it’s once a week. I’ll never be the type of blogger to follow a rigid schedule.

Social Media Promotion

I love Instagram but it’s rare when I have more than one interesting photo to publish every few days. I rarely use Facebook for blog promotion, other than automatic links to my posts. Does anyone read blogs via Facebook anyways? I generally forget about Twitter. Occasionally I remember and will get on for a day and go crazy but then forget about it again for a few weeks. I didn’t even have a Twitter account before blogging. When I’m hanging out away from work I’d rather not be on my phone or computer. Also promoting myself always feels inauthentic. Does that ever go away?

Networking

Along the same lines as social media I’m not the best at networking with other bloggers. Sure, I form friendships, email and text back and forth and do the occasional guest posts…but that’s where it ends. I don’t search out partnerships or link ups or even participate in a lot of link ups. I know it garners more readers but sometimes it doesn’t feel true to myself. And that’s what’s most important to me. 

Stylized Shots

I’ve only done one fashion posts. I love taking photos of scenery and family.  I love my DSLR and playing around with it. But I’m not the best of taking stylized shots for every post. That would take too much planning (see above). I don’t go all out with pinterest perfect and matchy patchy photoshoots for post photos or recipe photos. Sometimes wish I had that much patience and equipment but nope. You get what you get. 

Amazing and Ever Changing Web Design

I’ve had the same blog design since I started this blog over a year and a half ago. Sure my picture changes and there are little updates here and there, but I don’t go crazy with an amazing design. (hell, I even DO graphic design). My priority is in the words not the design. I hope that doesn’t deter you. 

Caring What Other’s Think

I care too much about what others will think to write what is on my mind 100% of the time. A goal of mine is to break down this wall and be more vulnerable and write for a niche rather than write for all. It’s hard putting everything out there to be judged by strangers. Just spend 10 minutes on Gomi to see what I mean. Whenever someone from my real life says they read my blog my gut reaction is to run and hide. 

Boring Life

In general my life is pretty boring. We don’t go on more than 2-3 trips a year. I work a typical job in a typical small city on the East coast. I spend more nights at home watching TV or reading with my dog than out on the town trying new things. I’m not going through an emotional crisis, have children, or experience a life change. It’s just me living an everyday life and documenting my everyday thoughts. Sometimes I’m still surprised anyone else other than my mom reads this. But THANK YOU. Thank you for letting me be me. The non conformist lazy blogger that you still come and check in on. 

And here’s me on an average day:

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Hello 2015! Time to Relax!

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Happy New Year, friends! We’re already a week into 2015 and it’s already zooming by. 

Our New Year’s celebration was pretty low key but very nice. As my Christmas gift, my boss treated us to a very nice and fancy dinner out on New Year’s Eve. We enjoyed delicious wine and seafood and had fun dressing up. At midnight we said cheers to the Near Year and made some resolutions. 

As I shared on Monday one of my New Years resolutions is to relax more. That may sound funny to you. How hard is it to relax? Do you really need to make a resolution to lounge around and sleep more? If you know anything about me, you know I’m a big worrier and suffer from anxiety. My constant state of worry often makes me lose out on moments of joy. Instead of basking in the moment and taking it all in, my mind is thinking about everything that could go wrong or trying to create a perfect plan so that everything falls into place how we want it.

No matter how many times I learn that I’m not in control of how the world turns, I can’t stop trying to take control or worry about the outcome.

That’s why I decided that my word of 2015 is going to be RELAX. 

2015 is a year of growth and change for Ryan and I. Ryan will be finishing up law school and will be graduating in May. He will be leaving his current job while studying for the bar. We will be moving to a new house in a new area. And then he will be starting his career at his new job in September. This is the time we’ve been waiting for and I want to experience it with joy, not anxiety. 

So in addition to lessening stress and finding the calm in those big moments of change I am also going to start incorporating peaceful and positive changes in my daily life. Like, practicing meditation, yoga, and sleeping more. As well as making priorities and sticking to them while also making sure I have time for myself and my needs. I want to feel centered and relaxed yet intent.  If that means blogging only once or twice a week, so be it! 

Through these changes I am committed to staying relaxing and adopting a “come what will” or “whatever will be” attitude. We are going to be fine, no matter what. Let’s make the ride an adventure, and an enjoyable one, while we are still on it!

What are you hoping to achieve in the New Year?

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