Tuesday, June 13, 2017

back in the reading game

Travel time means book time! I've had a few trips in the past two months and found a few books I couldn't put down, so Show Us Your Books is looking pretty good for me. Excited to link up with Steph and Jana when I have something to share.

Damage Done - This book kept my attention, but it was unfortunately compared to Gone Girl which means I was looking for a twist that was pretty apparent less than halfway through. There was a little more to said twist that wasn't revealed until the end, though, so even though it was a twist that I could barely see happening in real life, there's that. This book totally kept my attention but it had the typical YA puppy love mixed with tragedy. I wouldn't say I would recommend it, but I gave it four stars on Goodreads simply for keeping me entertained enough to want to read again after a long slump.

The Hearts of Men - I really liked the way this story was told. It started with a boy in the 60s at Boy Scout Camp and featured a character who had shown him a small kindness, then went to feature that character as an adult with a teenage son in the 90s, and ended with the son's wife a few years in the future. Much of the story revolves around the camp itself. It's one of those books where not a lot happens, but I liked the internal thoughts of each character enough to want to keep reading.

Her Every Fear - A British woman who has already experienced one traumatic event switches apartments with her cousin in Boston and a murder takes place the day she arrives. The story switched POVs, but it annoyed me here less than in other books; it seemed to do so for a reason. The way it was written made the main character's anxiety and paranoia come through on the page. The plot requires a huge suspension of disbelief, which I often have a hard time with, but for whatever reason, I stayed up late reading this book. I would recommend it as a quick plane or beach read - nothing life-changing, but it should keep you interested.

The Handmaid's Tale - When I was in college, I tutored high school kids in standardized test prep. One of my "regulars" had a huge project on this book, so I sped through it, thinking that it was awesome and I wished I had been taught it in high school. Then I never really thought about it again until it became a show on Hulu that people like. It was a free download with Amazon Prime, so I was excited to give it a reread. Some of the things in it are so freaky when compared with American life today. It's about a woman in a dystopian future America; not like a Hunger Games dystopia with crazy TV and fancy make-up, but one that looks a lot closer to real life. It makes you think while telling a great story. I think the fewer details you know, the better, but it's worth picking up.

Small Great Things - You guys. If the words white privilege and equity and social justice mean nothing to you, please read this book. You will learn something and you will read an interesting, thought-provoking story. I feel that any gateway is a good gateway to understanding systemic racial issues in the U.S. I have also witnessed so much "accidental racism" lately (ie, people who comment on how well-spoken a black person is... that is not a compliment) that I love this book for giving examples and explaining how what you think is a nice thing to say really shows that you are expecting something negative from a person of color. In addition to that, I thought it was an interesting story and I wanted to see what happened next. While the ending was a little ridiculous, everything it took to get there sold me.

Talking as Fast as I Can - This is Lauren Graham's memoir. I have to respect a celebrity who doesn't give a tell-all to sell books, but I also maintain the right to comment on the fact that a book doesn't have enough info in it to be terribly interesting. If this book wasn't written by a beloved actress, I don't think anyone would have read it. While her tidbits about filming the Gilmore revival were cute and sometimes interesting, her use of extended metaphors throughout the book to avoid giving more details got a little old for me. I did love her old lady character who doesn't understand our culture's social media obsession, though. Nonetheless, I tore through this really fast and found it entertaining; it just wasn't what I was hoping for.

I'm excited that the latest from Taylor Jenkins Reid is out today and I'm on a plane headed to Vegas for a work conference. Hopefully I can spend some time with a good book while I'm there.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

what's new with me: april and may

I meant to recap April in a post and never did, so this post is going to be a double whammy. It definitely qualifies as a post that's more for me than for you, but if you ever wanted insight into the minutiae worth remembering in my life, here it is.

In April...

- Andrew and I had our annual BBQ and Bluebonnets trip to the Hill Country where the only requirements are smoked meat and pretty flowers. We found a great spot and had good food, so I was thrilled.

- One of my favorite friends got engaged! I thought we were at dinner for another friend's birthday, but really, that friend and another had worked with her (now) fiancé to get her out of the house. I was riding home with the birthday girl when we got a text from the newly engaged with the news. She (and I!) had no idea. This is exciting because I think she is my last close friend to get married and she is letting me plan things for her, which I love.

- We staycationed at the Sam Houston Hotel in downtown Houston. We maaaaay have said it was our anniversary and were treated with strawberries and champagne (it was six weeks post our dating anniversary so that kind of counts, right?) and we used points, so the stay was free. We had dinner with friends at Ritual (so meaty, with a butcher shop in the back of the restaurant - the squeamish like me need to be mindful when choosing a seat as to not have to watch), bar-hopped a little downtown, and tried a new speakeasy called Tongue-Cut Sparrow hidden in the back of a noisy tequila bar. Then we had brunch at Kitchen 713, an old favorite in a new location.

- I went to NYC for a Benefit Dinner for work. I still feel really new in my role, so seeing how an organization like mine brings all event elements together was really interesting. I also got to see a lot of my colleagues in person who live in NYC or who also flew in for the event. I fell in love with the Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts from Gregory's Coffee (what is in that? still dreaming about it.) and got to eat Rick Bayless food at the airport in Chicago on my way home. The prickly pear aqua fresca would make a fabulous cocktail, in case you were wondering.

- Andrew and his BBQ partner sold sauces and spice rubs at a church craft fair. I spent an inordinate amount of time creeping on the petting zoo. The piglets were so cute, I vowed to stop eating pork. That lasted less than two weeks, though so far I have only had bacon and sausage; I'm not sure when I'll eat pork chops again.

- I went to New Orleans for a work meeting. There is an awesome place there called W.I.N.O. where you get a card and put it in a machine and can self-serve wine from dispensers in either a taste, half pour, or full pour. By the time I met my coworkers there, they were nearly ready to leave so I didn't get to do as much tasting as I would have liked, but I found out there's a place here in Houston with a similar set-up that I need to go check out. I didn't have much time for good food since the meeting took up most of my time, but the hotel restaurant was a John Besh restaurant, and I have been wanting to eat his food for a long time, so at least I got to do that (Luke at the Hilton on St. Charles. I had a fried chicken biscuit and some amazing savory grits).

- U2 was scratched off my concert bucket list! A long time ago, Andrew and I talked about artists that we would have to see in concert if they came through Houston. U2 was on it, so when The Joshua Tree tour was announced, he used his ticket ninja skills to get us tickets (he has the best luck with Ticketmaster; it's truly a gift). We got there when doors opened to get a good spot since we opted for general admission floor seats and it was worth it to see such a great show up close. The stage was phenomenal, but I don't know that I need to see the band again. I'm so glad I got to once, though. And, The Lumineers opened and were fantastic - this was my second time to see them live and I liked it more than the first.

- I almost got another cat. I have wanted another cat for so long, but since Bauer has medical problems and can be expensive and is also kind of a jerk, Andrew doesn't fully support this. But, I was out walking Duncan one day and he pulled harder than usual toward a tree. The tiniest grey kitten was under it, all alone and crying. At the same time, a woman and her son came walking toward us and I asked if they happened to be looking for a kitten. They weren't, but the little boy was about eight and started giving his mom a hard sell on the cat even though she said they couldn't take it. I couldn't leave the poor thing there, so I called Andrew to bring the carrier and started dreaming up names. I picked up the cat and fell in love at first sight (even though it hissed and tried to scratch me) but then passed it to the mom and her son. He was so persistent that they agreed to keep it. I was a little sad, but happy the kitty had a home since I'm traveling a lot in the next few weeks and it isn't an ideal time to get a new family member.

I'm sure there's more, but those are the highlights! I especially wanted to talk about the food since I feel like my online persona hasn't been much about eating or drinking lately, despite my username. What's new with you?

Linking up with Kristen and Gretch.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

add it to my list: may 2017

It's the last Tuesday of the month which means it's time to share the things you're recommending in real life with me, Bre, and everyone else. The Add It To My List link-up is where you can compile the things you really, truly like and have tried and want others to try too. It's nice if you leave a comment for Bre and me and then see what others are recommending. So, let's talk...


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You can grab the button here if you want.


Add it to your Netflix Queue:

Dear White People - I feel like this show was added to Netflix and no one said anything about it. I really liked it! If you understand white privilege and what's happening in society now, it's an interesting look at what it's like to be a black college student today. I mean it's still TV but it makes you understand how a young black man feels when faced with a police officer or how a black woman tries to be less black in certain situations. It's funny and coming of age and serious and you will breeze through the episodes while also getting a primer in social justice. I highly recommend.

Add it to your Podcast List:

Pod Save the People - While we're talking about social justice, here's a podcast that boils down social issues in terms we can all understand. The host and two others will talk about news issues and why you should care about them, and then there's an interview or two with an expert, politician, or celebrity talking about issues they care about. I've learned more about 45's tax cuts and why they're scary and more about Medicare and Medicaid since I started listening. The eps are long but worth it and also the host is an alum of the organization for which I work, so it's safe to say I'm hoping our paths cross soon.

This American Life - Tell Me I'm Fat - You already know that I love This American Life and Lindy West. I first learned who Lindy West was from this TAL episode, which you can download again this week (you can only go back so far to download TAL episodes via iTunes; otherwise, you have to listen to past eps online). If you haven't listened and you want a better understanding of being overweight in America, you should.

Add it to your Shopping List:

Sea Salt Garden Veggie Straws - Sometimes, 3 o'clock hits and I'm not hungry, but I need a snack to stay awake. I discovered these and I love them.  I feel like you can eat a ton for not many calories, they are wonderfully salty, and the crunch makes them satisfying. Are they the healthiest choice? No, but they are far better than many other things I could grab. Also, I've tried other brands, and these are far superior.

Clothes... on Amazon - Sometimes I see a really cute top online and I try it on in the store and it looks horrendous on me because I am not size two like the model (no offense, size two friends). I understand that they can't get models in all sizes for all clothes but seeing other body types in a lot of clothes would be nice, you know? Enter Amazon. There are so many clothes available on Prime (with free returns!) and tons of reviewers have posted pics of them wearing said clothes! When I see different body types looking great in an article of clothing, I'm much more likely to buy it. I bought a dress via Amazon last month which ended up just not being to my taste and I have this bathing suit in my cart now since it looks great on women of all shapes and sizes... I hate water but maybe this will make me change my mind? (not an affiliate link, click away).

Add it to your People to Stalk Online List:

Dan Rather/News and Guts - Who knew that a retired news anchor would continue to be a person we could look to to explain what's happening in the U.S. and why we are living in such an interesting time? Dan Rather writes open letters to the president on Facebook, compares current times to the past and predicts what might happen based on lessons learned, and continues to examine the cracks in our democracy. It's terrifying, but it also makes for good reading when you know what's happening in America doesn't feel right but you can't quite articulate why. I suggest following both on Facebook for maximum impact.

@hereisgina on Instagram - You know I love Jane the Virgin. I listened to a podcast with Jane herself, Gina Rodriguez, and then I started looking at her Instagram and her insta-stories are really fun - you feel like you're hanging out with her as she tries to do pull-ups using her at-home bar or plays with a giant bunny. If you want a normal celebrity to creep on, I suggest her.

Hopefully you found something new to add to one of your many lists. I'm excited to see what is on everyone's list now that it's officially summer!


Friday, May 26, 2017

a reminder, and a poor metaphor.

Well hello.

I miss our little talks. Both you coming over to talk to me, and me to you. My extra hour of morning time has been spent sleeping or watching Good Morning America to see what his orangeness did overnight.

In April, I actually did one of those things that bloggers say you should do and wrote an editorial calendar and it kept me focused and made me want to write again (well, twice a week - vast improvement!). And then I had a really busy week at work and then it was May and my remaining two topics were never addressed and now we're here, nearly all the way through May.

Since we are nearly all the way through May, I wanted to remind you that Bre and I are still hosting the Add It To My List linkup the last Tuesday of the month. That would be this coming Tuesday so you have a three day weekend to think about the things you would recommend. After a lackluster April, I'm excited that I have been keeping up with my recs so I can at least bring something to the linkup party. The one that I co-host. Last month, I felt like I invited you guys over and only had a bag of pretzels on the table. This month, I can at least offer you a decent cheese tray.

So please join us! I know you have opinions and spend money and like to share. Plus, you can write it on your editorial calendar. Win-win. Share about it if that's your thing. There's plenty of decent cheese to go around.

Friday, April 28, 2017

currently {april 2017}

I felt like I just did a Currently post. Like, that it was not too long ago and so maybe I shouldn't do it again but then I searched my archives and the last one was a year ago next week. I feel like 51 weeks is a pretty fair amount of time in between.

(Also? TIME FLIES.)

Watching: Felicity on the ABC app! I've never watched it before and the 1998 fashion is awesome. Felicity is kind of the worst, though. Better Call Saul is back, and so very different from Breaking Bad but still so well done. Considering the thought behind each shot, line, and choice on Vince Gilligan's shows makes me appreciate TV even more. I also started Rectify which I had never heard of (it aired on Sundance and is on Netflix) and it's got an interesting premise.

Trying: To find more balance. To get away from my desk and move around my house more, to find time to decompress (which used to be my drive time), to be happy and proactive, and to not be controlled by how I feel in this moment. Things change quickly so chances are, it won't always be this way.

Reading: I finally found a book that's holding my attention (Damage Done - it's YA but compared to Gone Girl)! My slump has been in effect since late January so this is exciting. I also read this article about what bullets do to bodies and found it fascinating. It talks about how the people who survive gunshot wounds are the story we aren't talking about and how trauma surgeons have gotten so good at their jobs that there are many gunshot wound survivors so they don't seem like as big of a deal anymore, but they are.

Enjoying: Champagne on a Thursday. Not wearing my contacts most days. Cool mornings. My vet refilling Bauer's steroid prescription without an office visit (huge win - he's terrified of the car). Leftover Cadbury mini eggs.

Noticing: That somewhere along the line, I forgot how to think critically. I spent six years (professionally) knowing that if one person was happy with my work, then I was seen as doing a good job. As long as I did what was asked of me, my job stayed easy. When I questioned or asked why, it didn't matter since pretty much everything was beyond my control. Now I'm in a role where I need to ask questions and think everything through. No details are too small and I'm surrounded by people who don't understand my role, so I have to explain it to them and do great things with my own job. It isn't bad, it's just different. But through it, I realized that I forgot to ask why. I got in a habit of following orders, I stopped thinking creatively, and now I need to get that back. It's a weird lesson, but I don't hate it. I just wish it were easier.

Buying: A shower gift for my new niece or nephew. New luggage. A pedicure on Saturday. And probably more since a woman in my neighborhood turned a room in her house into a really cute boutique and she's doing an open shop today. I won a gift card at one of her previous events, so I think I need to update my spring wardrobe.

Thinking About: Travel. I'm going to NYC for work this week, New Orleans later in May, Austin for mine and Andrew's anniversary/the ATX TV Fest in June, and then Las Vegas for a conference the week after that. I like to be busy, and it will be fun, but it seems daunting. Plus, the NYC event is a benefit dinner with fancy rich people and I have nothing to wear. The story of my life, you guys. If you have any recs where I can find a fairly inexpensive professional dress today or tomorrow, let me know. I got one dress from Amazon and hated it and another that my husband said made me look Amish so I need help.

I'll be reading on the plane, instagram story-ing where ever I go, snapping pics of the Fearless Girl (my company's NY office is right behind it), and searching for the best spots to spend my per diem. Gotta find those silver linings.