Thursday, February 12, 2015

Reading Challenge

I've been planning to write about this for the longest time.

Last year I challenged myself to read 24 books in 2014.  Doesn't sound too unreasonable... that would average out to two books every month.  Unfortunately, I didn't begin the challenge until the year was already about halfway over.  I didn't make it to 24 -- which most likely had something to do with adding another member to my family -- but I did rekindle my love for reading and I read some great books (the Divergent Series, the 50 Shades of Grey books, Water for Elephants, The Host, The Fault in Our Stars, The Help, Gone Girl, Three Sisters).  So when it came time to set my book challenge this year, I knew 24 books was a reasonable goal.

And then I stumbled upon a reading challenge thanks to a fellow blogger.  My first reaction to the list was that it sounded fun and challenging, for sure, but that it wasn't for me.  Mostly, because I wanted to read the books I wanted to read and I knew this challenge would force me to try something new.  But when I kept thinking about the list of prompts, I knew I had to give it a try.  I'm on my 9th book since the new year and there is no sign of slowing down.

So far I haven't branched out too far from what I would be likely to read without the help of this challenge aside from reading "The Good Girl" by Mary Kubica.  It's a mystery/thriller book and those aren't the types of books I usually gravitate towards.  It reminded me of how I felt while reading "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn -- which is probably because that's one of the only other mystery/thriller type books that I've read.  But goodness, "The Good Girl" was FANTASTIC.  Devastating and fantastic.

I really, really loved the Beautiful Creatures books but I haven't been able to get into the spin off series, Dangerous Creatures.  I don't know if after 5 books from the series that I was just burnt out on their story, or if it was from the new perspective that I just didn't care for... either way, I decided to move on for the time being.  And I'm glad I did because after finishing "Beautiful Redemption" I decided to (finally) read "If I Stay" by Gayle Forman and I was blown away by how much I loved that book.  The second book, "Where She Went" was a book I finished with lighting speed... I just did NOT want to put it down and flew through the pages.  Gayle Forman said she isn't writing any more books in that series -- and I like her reasoning for it (hint: Don't look up her reasoning if you haven't read both books yet) BUT I hate that we don't get to know what happens after the books end.  That book hangover really gets me after reading books where the characters completely come to life for me... I guess I have a hard time moving on from things, in general.

I like that this book challenge has been something solo for me to do while sharing it with other people, too.  My sister, Amanda, has taken up the book challenge, too, and that has made it all a hundred times more fun for me.  It's been fun trying to find books to fit in each category and then comparing our lists.  If that's not considered "nerdy" then I'm not sure what is!

Just a few of the books I plan to tackle for the challenge:

"Yes Please" by Amy Poehler (A funny book)
"PRO" by Katha Pollitt (A book with a one-word title)
"The Opposite of Loneliness" by Marina Keegan (A nonfiction book)
"Wonder When You'll Miss Me" by Amanda Davis (A book written by an author with your same initials)

...and plenty more.  Up next of my books to read: "Uglies" by Scott Westerfeld (A book set in the future).

Let me know what books you've read, books you'd recommend, and books you're reading!
Also - still slowly chipping away at our Oscars movie list! We've seen some really great ones this year and several more to go before Feb. 22! What have been your favorite Oscar Nominees so far??

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Top 5 Wish List for 2015

I just don't want to wait around for something exciting to come along this year... I want to pursue it every day with the girls.  I feel like the majority of my life is waiting... waiting for Tony to get home, waiting for nap time or bedtime, etc.  When you're a stay-at-home-parent life can easily become monotonous... especially when you're somewhat of an introvert.  So this year, in all things, I would like to step outside my current comfort zones.  With that, I would like to introduce you to some of the things I plan to do this year.

    • 01. GO TO DISNEY.  We plan to make a trip out to the west coast later this year (more than likely this Fall) to visit my brother-in-law, Sean.  While we're out there we will visit Disneyland and I am so pumped... none of us have been to that park, so it'll be fun for all 4 of us to experience a "first" together!  I just can't wait for Presley to get to see so many of the things she's wanted to see - the princesses, a castle, the rides, the food... I AM SO EXCITED.  It has been way too long since our last trip to Disney (Downtown Disney - July 2013) and even longer since we've visited the parks (WDW- May 2011) so this will be so magical.  Naturally, I just want to set a date so I can start planning!

      • 02. LOSE 20 POUNDS.  Yep.  I said it.  And I sure do need to.  Ideally, I would like to find a gym around here to join - in the past, that is just what I've had the most success with.  If not, I will give running another try.  I can run with the girls in their double stroller or I could wait until Tony is home and run solo.  I would also like family walks to become a regular thing for this family.  I'd also like to cut Coke out of my life for a month and see how I feel about making it a more permanent thing.  (I know... so sad...)  Another thing on my list of goals for the year is to cook at home more often - I feel like this could help aid in losing weight as well.

        • 03. DECORATE OUR HOUSE.  We have yet to fill some of our picture frames and the ones we have already filled we have yet to hang!  I've got so many gorgeous crosses I've been collecting for the cross wall I'm planning in our entryway.  And I want to hang everything for our gallery wall in the living room - among a bunch of other things to decorate around here.  

          • 04. GET AWAY.  It's been a long time since I've visited a zoo I've never been to before and it's about time to change that.  It's also been a long time since we've just taken a quick weekend getaway.  And it's been an even longer time since I've visited a state I've never been to before.  So for this one, I am gonna hit several birds with one stone.  Whether it's a trip as a family, just me & the girls, a trip just Tony and I, or a trip by myself... I want to visit a state I haven't been to before & see the sights they have to offer - including their zoo.  I feel refreshed after taking trips like this.

          It's clear what was on my mind while at the library today.

          • 05. EXPLORE.  I look forward to lots of adventures in 2015 -- especially here in Memphis.  I want to take Presley to the Children's Museum of Memphis and to the zoo all the time.  I want to visit parks and take nature walks and go on some family bike rides.  Join mommy groups on outings.  We'll visit Mud Island, go to Redbirds games and explore as many of the museums in town as we can.  There is something gratifying about visiting the city you live in.

          That's it for me.  And of course I plan to write posts as we mark these things of our to do list this year.  I'm excited to get started!  What is in the cards for you?  Let me know what you plan to do in 2015.  And for those of you who live in Memphis -- where are your favorite places to explore?

              Tuesday, February 3, 2015

              Molly's 7 month update

              Molly is over HALFWAY to her birthday!
              • Which means we've made it seven months on breastmilk!  I remember feeling so burnt out on breastfeeding by the time Presley was all done - one year ago this month - and I honestly wasn't looking forward to hopping back in the saddle all over again.  Thankfully, Molly has made it just as easy as Presley did.  There have been moments where I just want to quit breastfeeding (and run away to a remote location for several weeks...) but as you can read, we're still doing just fine with it.  It also helps that formula prices are so outrageous.  I haven't decided yet if I plan to continue nursing after her first birthday but as long as we make it to our mark I will be thrilled!
              • Wearing a size 3 diaper.  Loves to fill them up for us, too! 
              •  Fitting nicely in your 6-9 month clothes.
              • No teeth yet but I feel like you're getting very close to cutting two at the bottom. We'll see how much longer!
              • Not a fan of purees. Still. We've tried green beans, bananas, peas, and carrots. Every time you look like you're gagging or that we're feeding you poison! You'll eat the equivalent of two little spoonfuls - at most - and then you're done. And if you do eat that much at least half of it seems to be on accident. Breastmilk, it is!
              • Been sleeping in your own room in your crib (or "kitch" as Presley mistakenly calls it) by your big girl self for exactly one month now. The first night was rocky but after that you made it super easy on us - just like your sister did.

              • Sleep is your buddy. You like your daily naps - about two or three of them still at this point. You do consistently well at bedtime and you would rather me just set you right down instead of doing any kind-of routine... but I make you wait until I finish one song, at least. 
              • You're a belly sleeper all the way. And a cutie-cutie-thumb-sucker!
              • You love family dance parties. So does Presley. (And so do Mommy & Daddy!) "Uptown Funk" by Bruno Mars is the popular one around here these days along with "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift and pretty much any/every thing by Pentatonix, Sia, or Ellie Goulding.
              • Last night was your first Superbowl (XLIX) and it was the New England Patriots VS. the Seattle Seahawks. It was a super good game - very close and a lot of crazy plays at the end of the game. In the end the NE Patriots won and that's who we were cheering for - though it would've been awesome if the Seahawks would've won too... both teams deserved it. Katy Perry did the halftime show with special guests Missy Elliot and Lenny Kravitz. It. Was. Awesome.
              • You're getting close to crawling. I'll leave you in one spot and come back to find you've scooted yourself around in a circle to face a different direction... though I never see it actually happen! 
              • You love drinking water out of my straw - I use it like a little dropper and you'll drink the drops of water right up. We'll probably start offering you water in a soft-spout sippy cup soon!
              • We got your 6 month photos taken and they turned out just as adorable as I figured they would. I love the serious face - I can see all your sweet features that way.
              Here is the finished product. I put you in the same outfit that Presley wore.
              Here is Presley at 6 months

              I know, I know... I say this EVERY month, but I couldn't imagine my life without you in it, Molly girl.  It's funny to think back on a time when I worried about what life would look like with you in it or what it would feel like to be part of a family of four.  And I have a feeling I will be telling you this your whole life.  Mommy, Daddy, and Presley love you so so much!

              Sunday, January 25, 2015

              50 Questions that Will Free Your Mind (part nine)

              More of the 50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind. I'd love to hear some of your answers to these questions - if any of them strike a cord with you or if you have a reaction to something I've said, please do share!

              41. If you knew everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?
              Well naturally I really hate this question. I would definitely spend the day with my husband and kids at Disney World. (Hopefully I could talk my sisters and their families into going as well as our parents.) Is it better or worse that we don't know when the people we love (or ourselves) will be leaving for good? I really can't decide.

              42. Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?
              Hell to the no.

              43.  What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
              Have you seen the movie Click? It's a really good one (in my opinion) because it shows you why it's valuable in life to not only have the peaks, but the valleys as well. We all wish we could fast forward through the week until it's Friday or skip through life until we get the promotion we've been waiting for... and this movie shows you how awful that would be if we had a magic remote to skip over the less desirable parts of our life. The truth is that those "less desirable" days are full of promise. They're full of special moments. The movie also shows the difference between having an active presence in your life versus just being on auto pilot. Listening to people talk instead of checking out of the conversation to mentally go over that grocery list one more time. Engaging with others. Checking in with the people you love. Or rather, finding ways to make being alive the same as truly living.

              44. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?
              I don't think there is any concrete answer to give here... the closest I could come is to say that to calculate your risk/rewards includes relying heavily on your mind and to go ahead and take the leap has to do with feelings and doing more than it does thinking. It's something you feel and then react to, I guess.

              45.  If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
              Being mistakes hurt. We learn from our mistakes (usually) after time has put things into perspective. Everything we experience changes us and it's sometimes impossible to learn anything from those experiences until after they are over. If that makes sense. Sometimes in order to learn a lesson we have to learn them the hard way the first time. This results in losing people we love or the potential of what could have been. And even with the perspective we eventually gain, it is extremely painful.

              Then there is the possibility that our mistakes not only hurt us but they hurt the people we love the most. There is nothing we can do to take those things back and though they propel us into a future where we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and to grow as a person as a result - but who the hell wants to volunteer to be hurt? Not me. And yet, we so often reap such amazing benefits from our mistakes and the mistakes of others by who we've been hurt. So though nine times out of ten during the pain I would wish the pain away - one hundred percent of the time I am glad it's God's will and not mine because I know it will make sense eventually.

              Friday, January 23, 2015

              Pre-Oscars 2015.

              The Oscars are coming up - less than a month away!  That means we'll be trying to see as many movies from the list of nominees as possible.  Here is the list we're working with right now...

              1. Boyhood  (According to IMDB, it has a 100/100 metascore!)
              2. Maleficent -- Really excellent movie and not at all what I expected of the story.  I absolutely understand why this one is up for costume design.
              3. Guardians of the Galaxy -- Love love LOVED this movie even more than I thought I would. Chris Pratt is fantastic. I can't wait for them to make another one of these!
              4. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (And I guess see the first one)
              5. Begin Again -- Definitely a lackluster opinion on this one from both of us when it comes to the movie as a whole.  I personally hated the ending!  BUT, I think all of the actors did a fantastic job and it was a pretty cool story. This movie has a song up for an Oscar (Lost Stars) - which is why we watched it - and I do love the song. And I LOVED Adam Levine in it! 
              6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier  -- Holy moly. Favorite Marvel movie to date. It reminded me why I liked the Avengers movies so much to begin with - I had kinda forgotten at this point or stop caring. Just... loved.
              7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
              8. X-men: Days of Future Past
              9. Unbroken  -- Holy shit. This movie was incredible. I cannot wait to read the book. Acting was phhhhheeeenominal. HIGHLY recommend this one. Kinda pissed the metascore is so crappy.
              10. American Sniper -- I don't really understand how anyone could say that a sniper is a coward... especially after watching this movie and understanding Chris Kyle's dedication, sacrifice, and bravery. Truly an incredible person, story, and movie. If this can't raise awareness for PTSD and justice for our veterans after they return home, I don't know what will.
              11. Wild
              12. The Boxtrolls
              13. Intersteller
              14. Selma
              15. Still Alice
              16. Foxcatcher
              17. Into the Woods
              18. The Theory of Everything
              19. Birdman
              20. The Imitation Game
              21. Big Hero 6
              22. Nightcrawler
              23. The Judge -- I'll be honest: I didn't expect much from this movie. The reason it's on our list is because Robert Duvall was nominated for an Oscar for his performance here. And the nomination is 100% deserved. The movie itself was incredible, too, and I wish Robert Downey Jr. would have gotten a nomination in addition to the movie, itself. The cast was chalk FULL of people I love. Highly recommend giving it a watch.
              24. Beyond the Lights
              25. Mr. Turner
              26. Ida
              27. Leviathan
              28. Virgunga
              29. Finding Vivian Maier -- Nominated in one of the documentary categories and by far one of the best documentaries I've seen in recent times. (Which is slightly easy to do because I don't see many anymore.) This story is incredible - Vivian Maier's and how it intertwines with John Maloof's. It's all so unbelievable except for the physical evidence that it all indeed took place.... all I can say is the product is incredible. All of it. And the "story" isn't over yet. It's still happening and changing and it is one I will continue to follow and hope for the best.
              30. The Grand Budapest Hotel -- It's hard to say what has been the BEST movie we've seen from this list so far since they are all very obviously incredible movies in their own right... but this movie was perhaps as close as it comes to having a favorite. So far. We're less than halfway through the list at this point. It's nominated in SO many categories and I hope it walks away a winner. Such a neat movie.
              31. Gone Girl (Been wanting to see this one SO BAD!) -- Just as good as the book! Well, okay, obviously the book was better BUT what I mean is that the movie followed very closely to the story AND added so much by the characters they cast. Loved it & so did Tony. His reaction to the ending was just perfect: "Is that really the end?" And casting Tyler Perry? UM, PERF. Can absolutely see why Rosemund Pike is up for an Oscar - very deserved.
              There are SO MANY more we want to see before the Oscars, but we have to be realistic.  We won't be able to see any of the movies that aren't available on DVD before the Oscars air.  Who knows if we'll be able to catch all the ones that are already out - but it's fun to see them before the awards show!

              Here is the list we made we compiled as a result of watching the Oscars in 2014.  As you can see, we still have PLENTY we need to watch from last year.

              But honestly, I'm currently preoccupied with a fun reading challenge (which I will post about later) and it makes me care a little bit less about movies and TV shows.  I've read 4 books since the new year and I'm on my 5th one now!  Having the Kindle App on my phone makes it so much easier, too.  The girls' nap time and bedtime is dedicated to reading for me lately.  I'm still reading the Caster Chronicles and it is fantastic.

              I also watched "Beautiful Creatures" (the adaptation from book to movie) a few weeks ago and it was pretty terrible.  I feel like the casting was COMPLETELY wrong for nearly all the characters (especially Link, Lena, Ethan, Macon...) and not to mention the storyline was much too far from the book.  Ugh.  Such a letdown.  I can understand why the film did NOT do well and why there hasn't been an attempt to turn the other books into movies.  It actually makes me pretty upset because these books are right up there with the likes of the Hunger Games and Divergent books if you ask me.  If you haven't read the Beautiful Creatures books and liked the other series I mentioned, I would definitely recommend them to you.

              Alright... so, have any of you seen movies from the Oscars list up there?  Which would you recommend the most?  And how about what you've been reading?  Any recommendations there?  Love to keep up with people are into!  Hope everybody is surviving the winter months... hold tight because it is less than TWO MONTHS until the first day of Spring, my people!