Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Semi-Charmed 2015 Winter Book Challenge Preliminary List // The Only Way I Seem to Read is in Book Challenges....

Well, reading challenges apparently challenge me to read. Whodathought?

Here we go!

Here is my preliminary list:

5 points: Read a book that has between 100 and 200 pages.

Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton

10 points: Read a debut book by any author.

Someday, Someday, Maybe - Lauren Graham

10 points: Read a book that does not take place in your current country of residence.

Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

10 points: Read a book that someone else has already used for the challenge. 

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy - Kristen is currently reading this one... so I know it will work for the category. ;) 

15 points: Read a book published under a pseudonym.

Wuthering Heights - Charlotte Bronte (aka: Ellis Bell)

15 points: Read a book with “boy,” “girl,” “man” or “woman” in the title (or the plural of these words).

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

15 points: Read a book with a one-word title.

Devoted by Hilary Duff (re-read)

20 points: Read a book with a person's first and last name in the title.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

20 points: Read a food-themed book. 

Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette

20 points: Read a book with a verb in the title. 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

30 points: Read two books with the same title (by different authors).

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen and First Frost by Liz DeJesus

30 points: Read a nonfiction book and a fiction book about the same subject.

The Martian (you win everyone!) by Andy Weir and The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

Want to join in on the fun?! Initial post, rules, and link-up here

What are you reading?



Friday, November 20, 2015

Snapshots of Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska // Whales & Glaciers // July 2015

Come with me, back to Alaska! This day in the state was just gorgeous... so so gorgeous, see more pictures and read more details here.

Here are some photos of our time on the boat watching whales and glaciers.

(because I don't have/don't know how to use a mega awesome camera... I added little arrows to some photos, that way you can tell what you're looking at! The second one is obviously KC... so there's no arrow there... bahaha)

So so scenic, and a lot of fun! 

Since we spent most of the day on the water, we missed trying out many restaurants or visiting shops... but it was a great day. Since we did this all in July, this day was kind of my "birthday present". :) We had a blast on the boat, we got to see so much wildlife in the wild... go figure! The sheer number of whales we saw was incredible. So amazing to watch... just wow. I'm really glad we did a longer tour and saw the glacier as well. What an incredible thing to see in person. I have a cool video of it calving... but I can't quite figure out how to rotate it... lol.

Eat: Whatever is on the boat! Not bad, but not exciting. We had lots of hot chocolate once we made it out to the glacier! Brrr... 

See: The view! The view! The view! The wildlife and whales!! Seeing a glacier in person and watching it calve. Can you guys believe how blue all of the ice looks?!

Shop: None to speak of... 

Do: A Whale Watching / Glacier / Wildlife tour.

Favorites: Whales, duh. & glaciers, and the views.... 

New Experiences: Seeing glaciers. Seeing sea lions, various birds, otters etc. in the wild. Touching ice from an iceberg. Seasickness (sorta kinda, read below). 

Random Information: Toward the end of the trip the boat was going pretty quickly. I definitely don't have "sea legs" but I've never felt woozy on a boat before either! I bought some "natural" seasickness meds just in case, took one and felt fine. LOTS of others were not so fortunate. BUT the team on the boat was SO knowledgeable, giving tips, medications, crackers etc. to folks who were struggling. They really knew what they were doing and kept everyone pretty comfortable. I spent a decent portion of the end of the trip at the back of the boat watching the horizon. KC was a trooper and held on behind me, keeping me from freezing. #truelove It was cold, but not actually that cold aside from being right by the glacier.

Have you been to Alaska?

Have you ever been whale watching? Or seen a glacier in person?

Anybody prone to seasickness? 
Previous Alaska Posts: Seward & Kenai Fjords National ParkWasilla & Talkeetna, & Anchorage.

Coming Up: The Reality of Whale Watching and eventually some Florida posts.

Wanderlust Wednesdays



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

12 Reasons To Love James Bond Movies // Confessions

Two weekends ago KC and I went to see Spectre. I loved it, I always love the Bond movies, but I tend to forget that I do, and it surprises KC every. time. (to be clear, I have NOT seen all of the old ones yet).

Let's be real, I usually like romantic movies, funny movies, Disney movies, period dramas, old movies, hell, I like Hallmark Christmas movies! (#noshame) So, it probably goes without saying, that action-y, adventure-y movies are usually not my top pick. Except for James Bond movies.

Why? Let's just list it out (in no particular order):

1) The exotic locations

Oh boy, probably the entire best part of Bond movies for me, are the filming locations. The cinematography is always gorgeous... but I could just daydream about these potential travel destinations forever. Venice, Mexico City, Macau, London.... Morocco, Austria, Istanbul, Shanghai, The Bahamas, Lake Como .... there's no end to it. :)

2) Daniel Craig

For whatever reason, I seem to have a massive crush on this guy. I'm not typically starstruck when it comes to actors, and I'm certainly not the boy crazy type.... I guess it's just something about Daniel Craig as James Bond. Perhaps it's the character? Though Pierce Brosnan drives me bonkers.. : / Who knows?

Not many guys could pull of those suits AND being an assassin. Let's just be real.

He's polished and rough around the edges. (like Jess meets Logan...)

He's the good guy and kind of a bad guy at the same time. An anomaly. He's a fantastic movie character, intriguing.

moving on....

3) Judi Dench

Who doesn't love Judi Dench? She's sassy and delightful! And oh, so British. :)

Which brings me to...

4) British accents (and others!)

Who doesn't love an exotic accent? So many make it into these movies, just take your pick! Just listening to them is fun!

5) The suits

It's fun to imagine people who actually wear suits so often (kind of like those fabulous dresses!)! James Bond does it well.

6) Fast paced adventure

If hanging off of a helicopter while fighting doesn't make you nervous, I don't know what will. Again, for a non-action movie lover, these movies keep it pretty fast paced, which means I'm not bored. :)

7) The Romance

While some of these "relationships" are um well, ... short lived, .... romance makes it into the plot. Which I appreciate. More plot? I'll take it!

8) Q

Q is so opposite of Bond, it's kind of adorable to watch the scenes where they interact. The banter is great. It's also fun to have someone super young in the cast who happens to have this adorably intelligent sort of character. :)

9) The truly cringe-worthy bad guys

Were you cringing? bleeecch. To avoid spoilers... I did not choose the other Javier Bardem gif... also, it's just super super nasty. : / How did they make him so creepy?

10) The 'Bond Girl' dresses

It's like the Oscars, but better! Who doesn't like to imagine getting all dressed up and going someplace fabulous? Again, it's like the suit thing.

Even Money Penny's day-to-day clothes are super adorable ...

Click here for more iconic bond girl outfits. Kind of a cool link/graphic. :)

11) Daniel Craig - whoops, is this a repeat?

I'm just going to leave this here....

In all seriousness, I like how this gif shows a scene that is a counterpart to all of the gazillion bond girls who walk out of the water scantily clad, a la Halle Berry. Fair is fair, or neither is fair... I'm not sure which.

moving on then ....

12) That for give or take 2 hours... you feel like you *are* in these exotic locations, wearing the dresses, and living a luxurious and adventurous life...

So, there you have it 12 (11 I guess... ) reasons to love James Bond movies. I look forward to re-watching some, and watching some older ones for the first time. Always adding to that movie bucket list. :)

Has anyone else seen Spectre? What did you think?

Does anyone else like James Bond movies?

Any other movies that make you feel like you are *in* the movie?

Thanks for reading / gif-ing!

Linking this up, first time for confessions.... ha :) Linking up Plucky and with More Coffee, Less Talky & Life by Nadine Lynn!



Monday, November 16, 2015

12 Small Things You Can Do To Make The World A Better Place, When it Feels Like Everything is Falling Apart

Last week was a tough one for the world, and for my heart.

I found out some bad news related to a friend's health, my sister's new car died, her husband was in an accident in the rental car, whale mortality rates are at a staggering high, Japan was hit by an earthquake, as was Mexico, and of course the horrible acts of terrorism in Paris, Beirut, the middle east, and news of Kenya resurfacing. Not to mention the ongoing struggles in the world, homelessness, war, hate, pollution... It's a lot to take in....

I think for many, it's hard to allow ourselves to think about these things too deeply. It's painful, and we feel helpless. We don't want to know all of the details, because we can't change what has happened. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by these things, things beyond my control, I try to put that energy into something I can change. Even if it is small. Because small things, can make a big difference.

Sometimes these types of things are called "random acts of kindness," but I think they can be small acts of very intentional kindness too.

Here I have taken 12 basic ideas of small things that you can do to make the world a better place, and broken them down into specific actionable ideas. 

It's amazing how getting mail can brighten anyone's day. Think specifically of someone who might be in need of it. Someone who is deployed, has moved to a new city, someone going through a hard time, someone who might be lonely, maybe an elder family member. Sending a quick note or card to say "Hi, I'm thinking of you," can make a big difference. Of course it's good to be less generic than that, but you get the idea!

Animal, homeless, and domestic violence shelters are often in need of supplies and materials. I get notices on Facebook from our local animal shelter, and often times they will post things that they are in serious need of. For example, paper towels and bleach are a hot commodity! From time to time, KC and I will pick up a gallon of bleach and a package of paper towels and take them out there. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, but it's a big help to the animals and shelter workers. Sometimes they want things like peanut butter, old blankets, toilet paper tubes, etc. Things you'd already like to get rid of. By calling ahead or checking on social media, you can find out what shelters need, and the best way to deliver it. It doesn't take much time or money but it makes a big difference.

You can do this on a scheduled basis through groups like Habitat for Humanity, hospitals, libraries, shelters, etc. Or you can do it in a less obvious way, volunteer to watch your friend's kids, or to house or pet sit for someone in your life. The payment can be knowing that you helped someone who could use it.

Even the tiniest material gifts can make someone smile. Maybe you wrap up a holiday book for the neighbor kids, or a $5 romcom DVD and some popcorn for a girlfriend who's going through a breakup. Or you saw something small that reminded you of a friend far away. That small gift can make a person's whole day. A chocolate in your husband's laptop case for work, a new stapler for your coworker who broke hers, it really doesn't matter what it is.... it matters that you noticed them, noticed what they are going through, and showed them that you care.

Pay for the person behind you at the drive thru. Often times there will be one or two people in the car, ordering $5-10 worth of coffee or food. Not a huge expense, but a nice gesture, and a unexpected one. You never know when that will make someone's day, or make their lives just a little bit easier.

I think eco-change is especially daunting for some people. It's easy to think that recycling one thing, or one type of thing won't make a big difference, but it does! My advice is always to start small. Pick one thing (aluminum, plastic, batteries, newspapers, etc.) and start by keeping a bin of only that. Work your way up, and eventually you may be recycling almost everything. It doesn't have to be hard, and you don't have to be hard on yourself. Knowing that you made a baby step is gratifying enough. You may not get an immediate reaction of gratitude from anyone for doing this one... but it's just as important! Every little bit really does matter, this is a great one to work on as a family, instilling that knowledge in your kiddos' minds! They will thank you later!

Maybe your neighbor is really helpful, lends you a snow shovel, walks over your paper when it's in their yard, offers to house sit for you, etc. Or maybe it's a coworker who's been a big help. Or just someone you interact with who is really friendly and always makes you feel like the world is a better place. Leave them an anonymous (or not!) note saying why you appreciate them! My preschool used to do "Bucket Filling" (there is a book for you mammas out there!) where the admin staff would give little notes and gifts to other employees throughout the year. Sometimes they were specific, "Alex, you are always so cheerful first thing in the morning greeting the kiddos as they get to school! Thank you!" and sometimes they were the same for everyone, "Happy Holidays, paint your twinkle toes!" with a nail polish, but they always brightened my day! If someone is kind, happy, helpful, patient, etc. let them know! They would love to hear it. :)

Put change in a meter that is about to expire or even pay someone's ticket. You never know when a mother of three, or someone who is sick could really use that help! There's nothing like taking away a bad part of someone's day. And when it only costs you pocket change, it's a win win for everyone!

Show your coworkers you appreciate them. Maybe they're an indispensable part of the team, or maybe they are a good friend who will listen to you when you're having a rough day. It doesn't matter why you appreciate them, just show them you do. Bring them a coffee, bring in breakfast or treats to share, give them small holiday gifts, or notes like in #7.

I don't know if people do this where you live, but here, most of the time, people will wait and hold the door open for someone who is coming in. It's a nice gesture, and it can be a big help when someone is carrying things, wrangling children, or struggling to walk. You never know, it might even just make people smile. This is a tiny one, but for some people it means a lot, especially people who think the practice has been forgotten.

Or your dad, sister, cousin, grandma, whoever. It's easy to get caught up in the busyness of our own lives, but it's important to remind people that you are thinking of them, and to make time to show them. Even just saying hi, asking them how their day went, telling them you thought of them when you saw something happen somewhere. etc. Especially the older people in our lives, everyone likes to hear that they aren't forgotten. :) If you need a reminder of just how much our older people need us, watch this. Be ready to cry though.

Sometimes the best thing you can do, is just be there. To give away something that you already carry. Maybe it's putting your phone away and actually giving your undivided attention to your husband, friend, pet, etc. Maybe it's reading a book to a kiddo, or a grandparent. It could be shoveling someone's walk, or raking their leaves. It might be carrying something for someone who has low strength or mobility. Maybe it's helping someone shop because you're awesome with clothes, or gift giving. Or maybe there is a way for you to use your business or skills to give someone who needs it something for free or at a discounted rate. Even if you don't think you have skills that someone would use, you do! Just think about it. :)

I hope that you guys are all hanging in there after last week, and that you are able to use some of these ideas to make the world just a little bit better place. Starting small can create a ripple effect, it's important to remember that, especially when times are hard!

What are some of your favorite small ways to make a difference? I would love to hear, maybe we could make a big post!! :)