Unintentional Blog Break & Visiting the 50 States

10 Sep

While it wasn’t intentional, I ended up taking a bit of a blogging break, or a hiatus, if you prefer fancier diction. 

(Caveat: Funny timing given powerhouse home/lifestyle bloggers Young House Love just announced they’re taking a much-needed break from blogging too)

Blogging started to become more of a chore and responsibility (to myself, not to all 3 of my readers) and I kept adding to the “to blog” list without actually blogging… and we all know what happens when a To Do list gets longer and longer… it becomes even less motivating to get anything done.

So that being said, a random blog comment (thanks Lily!) on an old post brought back fond memories of blogging (distance makes the heart grow fonder and all that) so here I am.

That being said, I’m not really sure what I’m going to post about.

  • I don’t know if I’ll ever restart my “What I’m Reading” posts because a) I don’t always want to say something about the books I’ve read b) I really don’t think I’m a good writer, much less book reviewer and c) I meticulously log and rate the books I read on Goodreads. That being said, I haven’t stopped taking pictures of the books I’ve read, so there’s that.
  • I also don’t know if I’ll want to pick up my Voice recaps, especially since I haven’t been able to really enjoy the show in a season or two.
  • And… I really did like doing my monthly personal updates, but those were some of the posts that took the most energy (makes sense, right? More in = more out) so we’ll see.

We just got back from a vacation, so I figured I could write a tiny bit about our travels. We’re trying to visit all 50 states together (so states we visited separately before we got married don’t count) and it’s been super fun seeing new things, driving through totally different parts of the country, and visiting friends who’ve moved all over the place. If you ever need recommendations for mini-trips to states/cities we’ve been to, feel free to shoot me a note!

  • Labor Day trip: Charleston (SC) -> Charlotte (NC) -> Atlanta (GA)
  • And just to fun, other states we’ve visited/trips we’ve done:
    • One state visits: Portland (OR), Seattle (WA), Salt Lake City (UT), Denver (CO)
    • Las Vegas (NV) -> Sedona -> Phoenix (AZ)
    • Ann Arbor (MI) -> Indiana -> Chicago (IL) -> Madison (WI) -> Rochester (MN)
    • Louisville (KY) -> St Louis (MO) -> Kansas City (KS) -> Tulsa (OK) -> Little Rock (AR)
    • New Orleans (LA) -> Houston -> Austin -> Dallas (TX)
  • So including our home state of California, we’ve visited 22 states so far.
  • States left: New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, the “North” (Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa), and all of the Northeast. Quite a bit!

We have a couple other small trips planned for the rest of 2014, but all to states we’ve been to before, so 22/50 might be where we end 2014 on. Not bad…and there’s always next year!

Stitch Fix #4 and #5 {catch-up}

7 Jan

I still haven’t had that stellar Stitch Fix experience I’ve been dreaming about–the one where you open the box, fall in love, and buy everything. Of course, I still love the concept, the branding, and the customer service… but… maybe because my expectations were so high, there was only room to fall.

Regardless, I’ve been given a few excuses to order new fixes (credit in my POPSUGAR Must Have box and through referrals) so ordered a couple… and ended up with a few new pieces that I liked (that came at the right price point).

almost bought my entire fourth fix, because I liked all the tops and they all fit decently well… but they sent me a pair of earrings and I don’t have pierced ears! I’m guessing that’s a bit of an oversight but that’s a bit of  QA blip, no?

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COLOURWORKS Rowson Mesh Detail Striped Sweater – I really liked this top, but it was pricier than I would have liked ($60…?) so it was a no.

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OXMO Janet Cotton Tab Sleeve Top – I liked this top and was about to keep it because I don’t have a white casual blouse like it, but couldn’t get over all the buttons on the front… 2 buttons too many?

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EVERLY Adina Short Sleeve Zig Zag Blouse – Strangely enough, I kept this top… but didn’t LOVE it. If they were all the same price, I probably would have kept the Colourworks one. But, for the price ($38) and the nice side buttons, I thought it’d be a little bit of an adventurous addition to my closet, and indeed it has been.

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ALYTHEA Blue Blazer – I don’t remember the exact name or price, but I really liked this blazer for a lot of reasons — fit, versatility, color… yay!

Then, I took a little bit of a break until a fall shipment in November, which was a pretty big bust. I’m not sure if it’s because they were busy or if it was the change in seasons or something in my profile that sent mixed signals, but I really didn’t like the three tops they sent.

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PHOEBE Dot & Stripe Sweater DressMYSTREE Donallan Striped Button-Up Cardigan – While I liked the texture/weight of both pieces, I didn’t like the overall styles. The dress was a nice length/size, but I didn’t like where the polka dots were — unflattering. And I didn’t like the color-blocked collar on the cardigan or the pockets… I probably would have liked both if they didn’t have the extra color blocking element.

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UNDER SKIES Clemente Diamond Knit Striped Sweater – Soft, but super unflattering. No pictures for evidence, ha.

41HAWTHORN Colored Faceted Circles Strand Necklace - I actually thought this necklace was beautiful, but I rarely wear orange shades (Asian = yellow-y skin and not as complimentary with the orange) so I passed.

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41HAWTHORN Hayden Dot & Stripe Knit Infinity Scarf – I have a lot of scarves (it’s kind of a problem), and I don’t like my $20 styling fee going to waste, and I liked the red/white color scheme, so bingo!

Sooooo… as you can see, a bit of a mixed bag. Or I guess a mixed box, in this case. I still have a lot of love for the brand but am not entirely sure what it is that’s keeping me from my Stitch Fix happily ever after. Perhaps my budget? Or am I just super picky? Could be!

Regardless, I’m still having fun with it and adding little things to my wardrobe, so would encourage you to try it too–if you’re curious!

What I’m Reading

26 Sep

AND WITH THIS POST, I am totally up-to-date on what I’ve been reading the past few months! Easier said than done.

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  • The Fifth Wave (Amazon) (Rick Yancey) – Sci-fi… skimmed it. From the small sampling of books I’ve read or tried to read, I think I’m less likely to enjoy a book if it’s written by a male author. Just an observation worth sharing.
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Amazon) (April Genevieve Tucholke) – You know, the story itself was okay. The main character frustrated me a little by her naivete but I still enjoyed it… but… the ending? DRIVES ME NUTS. I hate when I find out that it’s “Book #1″ in a series when I was expecting a resolution. Ugh. Book #1s should have a resolution!
  • The Spectacular Now (Amazon) (Tim Tharp) – Underwhelmed. I really wanted to see the movie, and now I’m still curious, but less so. Didn’t love the narrative voice (male author, again!) and didn’t love the ending, but can see how it’d make a good movie.
  • Fingerprints of You (Amazon) (Kristen-Paige Madonia) – Simple, sweet, mother-daughter tale… finding-yourself, etc. Liked, didn’t love.
  • Warm Bodies (Amazon) (Isaac Marion) – Better than I hoped, but not great. Just watched the movie trailer and like how they applied the humor of the novel. Zombie love story, but not exactly…
  • Reconstructing Amelia (Amazon) (Kimberly McCreight) – Another adult novel I picked up because of all the sales and press. I actually liked this BETTER than GONE GIRL which I know everyone loved and was a huge blockbuster (does that word apply to books too?). The ending and the final twist weren’t entire surprises (I feel like it’s been done before, to an extent), but I did like all the little twists and turns along the way. And oof, the heart of her mother…
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible (Amazon) (Austin Grossman) – Started, because it was well-regarded in the world of fantasy/sci-fi, but couldn’t finish it. Never got into comic books, so shouldn’t have been surprised that I didn’t love a book that was essentially a spin-off of the comic world.

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  • Something Strange and Deadly (Amazon) / A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Amazon) (Susan Dennard) – Yet ANOTHER trilogy with a female heroine. Should that be a drama? YA paranormal trilogy with strong female heroine and multiple love interests? This one is set in earlier America, with a twist of zombies and magic (and some science), but still entertaining. I guess the formula works!
  • A Really Awesome Mess (Amazon) (Trish Cook) – REALLY liked this. Takes place in an … what do you call it… alternative care facility? Kind of like rehab for teenagers, who come together with a motley of issues. The two main characters struggle with anger/feeling loved (boy) and eating disorders/feeling loved (girl). Unexpectedly funny with a lot of sass, big thumbs up.
  • The Name of the Wind (Amazon) / The Wise Man’s Fear (Amazon) (Patrick Rothfuss) – And the grand finale… Patrick Rothfuss. Oh, Patrick Rothfuss. I won’t say that these are MORE fun than the Game of Thrones series because I know that’d raise havoc… but I will say that they are of the same caliber. Set in similar worlds, but I like that these focus on ONE character (Kvothe) and it is a coming-of-age story, just that of an extraordinarily clever, smart, observant, resourceful, powerful, and talented … arcanist? Not sure what we should call him. SO SO SO SO SO good. Gave both 5 stars, which I don’t very often on Goodreads… but high fantasy seriously at it’s best. Cannot wait for the third book, though I’ll probably have to wait ages given it’s apparently not done being written yet!

The Voice – Blind Auditions #2

26 Sep

Kiiiiiiiind of underwhelmed this season, guys. Or is this how it always feels during the blind auditions?

  • Observation #1: There was a family interview where they hugged and a Starbucks cup (*cough* prop) fell over and nothing spilled out. How much you wanna bet they’re empty??? And just placed randomly around the shots?
  • Observation #2: A lot of the sob stories can’t sing all that well… but they have interesting stories that humanize the show, so I get it.
  • HOLLY HENRY. I like like like like like her! I like this song, I like the way she did it and didn’t mind that she had that typical soft raspy quirky voice because she showed she can sing with power too. And, Team BLAKE. Wee!

  • And Johnny Gray — I liked him. Great, GREAT song choice and he had a really strong opening. Plus, seems like a nice guy. Yay!

  • And yes, I think Tessanne Chin is good… but too many similarities to Judith Hill! Producers, we can see what you’re trying to do! Back-up singer, mixed heritage, power vocals. At least she seems nicer… and I will admit, hearing her talk is super cool. But… yeah, not the end all be all by any means.

What I’m Reading

26 Sep

More books! More books! Seriously, never-ending pile of  books. I wonder if I’ll get bored of reading… that’d be weird.

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  • Why We Broke Up (Amazon) (Daniel Handler) – Not only did I really like the story (totally thought it had a female author), I loved the illustrations (it’s kind of like a graphic novel in that sense). Heartbreak… but shouldn’t have been surprised because of the title, duh.
  • Maine (Amazon) / Commencement (Amazon) (J. Courtney Sullivan) – You hear about this author a lot, but realized she’s not exactly my cup of tea. She’s what you would call a feminist novelist (I think) so there’s a lot of women in her novels… and all the drama that comes with it. MAINE is about a family of women (oh the dynamics…) and COMMENCEMENT is about 4 girls who become friends in college at an all girl’s college. Going to try to read her newest one (THE ENGAGEMENTS) but may not continue reading any of her future works.
  • Feed (Amazon) / Deadline (Amazon) / Blackout (Amazon) (Mira Grant) – FUN! Zombie/political novels set in the future. They’re pretty long, which kind of scared me off, but once I really got into them, super super fun. These are more adult-targeted, so less ooey gooey fun and less breezy and more science and all that, but I liked them.
  • Fire With Fire (Amazon) / Burn for Burn (Amazon) (Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian) – After the PRETTY series, was excited to read these two (plus, AWESOME cover art!). Story of 3 girls who become friends under unusual circumstances, and then the fallout of their scheming. Didn’t catch or initially love the sci-fi turn of the story, but am curious how it’ll resolve all the various conflicts in book 3.

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  • Sheltering Rain (Amazon) / Windfallen (Amazon) (Jojo Moyes) – More Jojo Moyes :) As previously mentioned, her older works felt a little more formulaic but still enjoyed them. Am SUPER looking forward to her new  book (THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND) with the gorgeous cover art.
  • On the Jellicoe Road (Amazon) (Melina Marchetta) – One of my favorite book blogger websites mentioned this book as one of their writers’ absolute favorites, so I had to read. Can see why they liked it, but was a little too quirky for me.

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  • Austenland (Amazon) /Midnight in Austenland (Amazon) (Shannon Hale) – SO FUN. I knew AUSTENLAND was made into a movie, but didn’t have expectations going into it and love love loved the first book (and was pleasantly surprised by the second book as well). Clever, witty, feel-good. Recommend.
  • Nantucket Blue (Amazon) (Leila Howland) – Another one of those easy-breezy summer books, which I enjoyed.
  • Sweet Tooth (Amazon) (Ian McEwan) – Thought I might like it after seeing all the press, but couldn’t even skim through to the end… and once I saw the spoilers online about the rest of it, was so happy I stopped. Ugh.
  • Big Brother (Amazon) (Lionel Shriver) – Another book around weight… really inspired (is that the right word?) by her involvement in her brother’s life, but didn’t love the way it affected her life and family… and then at the very end, couldn’t handle the ending. Could not.

What I’m Reading

25 Sep

I’m still super behind on remembering everything I’ve read, but there were some great ones in this batch… just you wait!

  • If I Stay (Amazon) / Where She Went (Amazon) (Gayle Forman) – I’ve been hearing about Gayle Forman’s writing for a long time but finally delved in with these two — the first is ethereal and tragic (big car accident) and is mostly her (not quite dead) thinking about the implications of “staying” or “leaving”… it’s pretty sad. And “Where She Went” addresses the aftermath of her decision. Didn’t love book 2, but like that it resolves a lot of really realistic issues.
  • Just One Day (Amazon) (Gayle Forman) – This book took the beautiful, thoughtful prose I liked in IF I STAY but took away some of the paranormal/tragedy and set the story in Paris. Love. Love. Love. Am DYING to read book two (JUST ONE YEAR) which comes out in early October. I really liked how she didn’t end the book in the place you might expect a similar book to do so.
  • The Heiresses (Amazon) (Allison Rushby) – Had low expectations for this one, but reminded me that I really enjoy historical fiction and I love the (broken but beautiful) relationships between sisters. I also think I’ve always had some kind of fascination with twins/triplets (Sweet Valley High, anyone?) and the protagonists are triplets :)

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  • Uglies (Amazon) / Pretties (Amazon) / Extras (Amazon) / Specials (Amazon) (Scott Westerfeld) – The UGLIES series is one of the most famous and “foundational” (i.e. early) paranormal/sci-fi/dystopian YA series from a few years back. Finally picked them up and while I wasn’t blown away (I think the novelty has worn off and newer, better authors have emerged), they were still fun and I read them up.

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  • 45 Pounds (Amazon) (K.A. Barson) – This was a WONDERFUL book. I think because I grew up chubby (until about middle school), I’ve always been a little preoccupied by my weight, what I eat, and the emotional turmoil that comes with it. I love the juxtaposition of the protagonist and her mom, the inner struggles she faces as well as what she learns about her family… and the motivation for her changes, ahhhh I love. So good.
  • Me Before You (Amazon) (Jojo Moyes) – Can I just tell you? SUCH. A. GOOD. BOOK. SO. GOOD. I had never heard of Jojo Moyes before this book started getting really amazing press, but I also ado-red the cover typography/design (the power of a good cover!). I started it late in the night and never intended to finish it, but literally couldn’t stop reading it until like 4 or 5am and I was bawling… straight up pile of tissues next to me (and growing). SO GOOD. Please read!
  • The Last Letter From Your Lover (Amazon) (Jojo Moyes) – Instantly requested more books from Jojo Moyes from the library and this was the most recent one that they had — I think most of her previous works were more like this, where there are two love stories set in different historical settings (one contemporary, one historical) and somehow they connect. Very entertaining reads that tug at the heart strings… though (SPOILER ALERT) it breaks. my. heart. when the love stories aren’t wrapped up “happily ever after” in the “older” context. UGH. HEARTBREAK.
  • Still Star-Crossed (Amazon) (Melinda Taub) – Another GREAT book! (Was on a roll that week!) I haven’t read a ton of Shakespeare spin-off type stories, but this was one that really worked for me. It’s a spin off of ROMEO & JULIET and gives life (with a made up backstory) to two side characters in the original series. So fun. Reminded me a little bit of THE RED TENT just in the way it took a smaller character and gave it a LOT of life, taking advantage of the framework in the original. Fun.
  • My Life Next Door (Amazon) (Huntley Fitzpatrick) – Simple, predictable story, but sweet.
  • Heads in Beds (Amazon) (Jacob Tomsky) – This is actually a totally different type of book — HEADS IN BEDS is an “expose” type nonfiction around the hotel industry, in the same way that KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL exposed some of the secrets of what it’s like to work in the restaurant industry. Especially as B & I have been traveling more in the past year, I was ashamed to read about tipping and how I should have been tipping a lot more than I was… and immediately applied some of the things from this book when I went to Portland in August and was happy to make the bell-person unexpectedly surprised :) READ THIS if you travel!
  • Fifteenth Summer (Amazon) / Sixteenth Summer (Amazon) (Michelle Dalton) – I’m kind of embarrassed to talk about these books and why I picked them up… but… basically, I was at my aunt’s and saw them on my cousin’s shelf… and read them. Sigh. My cousin is 12 years younger than me. EEEEE. hahahaha, but the books were fun and breezy and easy. Still so weird to acknowledge I’m reading the same books as her!

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  • The Summer I Turned Pretty (Amazon) / It’s Not Summer Without You (Amazon) / We’ll Always Have Summer (Amazon) (Jenny Han) – A friend had read the PRETTY trilogy and I was in the mood for an easy-breezy fun read, which these were. All 3 books together = 1 Korean drama. And the main character’s nickname is Belly. Yes, like our dog. HA! Still fun.
  • Invisibility (Amazon) (Andrea Cremer) – A strange premise (invisible boy, only one girl can see him) and the implications. Expected more of an EVERY DAY type story, but then it went more fantasy/sci-fi, which picked up the pace.
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Amazon) (Maria Semple) – This one got a LOT of attention in the press, and understandably so. Pokes a lot of fun at a certain type of parent (set in Seattle) but I didn’t love, love, love it. Fun, though.
  • Throne of Glass (Amazon) (Sarah J Maas) – YA fantasy fiction with a strong heroine… in fact, an assassin. Graceling-esque, but stronger and a little scarier. Enjoyed and looking forward to book 2 (which *just* came out).

The Voice – Blind Auditions #1

25 Sep

Wellllcomeeee back, the Voice! And what’s that you have? AN EMMY???? Well-deserved, I’d say! And welcome back to our dear old coaches, Cee-Lo and Christina. Looks like it’s going to be an interesting season, no doubt.

Too lazy to recap everything, but the things I thought that were worth commenting on:

  • Favorite line of the night: “You can’t lose either way…” Blake: “Yes, you can.” HA! Blake, I missed you!
  • Kat – super strong voice, but can’t see the rocker thing making it to the end…
  • The young blond (Caroline) — felt like the producers were trying to hard to recreate someone young and innocent like Danielle Bradbery, who obviously won last season. BUT, her voice reminded me more of Caroline Glaser, who was eliminated. Not expecting her to make it very far.
  • Donna Allen – obviously an amazing vocalist, but will never win.
  • Matthew Schuler – LOVE. GOOD. GOOD. KEEP HIM. I think he’s charming and sweet and I love his song choice (not what you’d expect, arranged and sung interestingly) – he’s going to do well! I feel it in my bones. (Couldn’t believe he went with Christina, but okay!)

  • Nic – good for a laugh, but can’t imagine him making it to the end… and you know, only like 1 in 4 make it past the knock offs!
  • Shelbie Z – am curious about this one… liked her, but nothing jaw-droppingly awesome. But that being said, I ate my words when Amber Carrington made it to the end last year!
  • Josh Logan – you know what, Microsoft ruined this song for me. But I still like your voice and your quiet, gentle demeanor.

  • And the closer of the episode – James Wolpert – I had never heard his song before, and the first half of his song wasn’t that exciting… but then… he hit the middle and you KNEW something good was going to happen. Goosebumps! (Plus, he’s cute! and he’s clearly smart, educated, and made a very intentional decision to a) work for the Apple store and b) drop out/”postpone” school). Curious what else he can sing!

Episode 2, here we come!

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