Sunday, May 15, 2016

april recap

I like using my blog so that I remember things, but I rarely take the time for Weekend Recaps anymore. I think I'll take a page from Kristen's book (or a post from her blog, I suppose) and do monthly recaps, probably along with her What's New With You? linkup. But since I'm late to that party, here's what happened in April, even though it's mid-May.

The month started with a long walk through downtown to get my boss cupcakes for her birthday. I loved the chance to go to the top of the Chase tower to see Houston from up high and checking out some street art on my way. Houston is really trying to step it up for the Super Bowl in February and I love it. Andrew did a BBQ cookoff on April 1st and our friends who we never see were able to come, sans kiddos, and I loved catching up with them.

 From the 60th floor, I believe (my ears always pop in the elevator) | installations on Main Street

Three random things worth remembering: I mentioned a while ago that we found a great bar, and we keep going back... like, every weekend. So far, I have ordered three beers there and liked them. This is huge. I've wanted to like beer since I realized how much cheaper it is than cocktails. I had to work one Saturday night and noticed that my school library has a space dedicated to RBG coloring pages. Oh, and we got our landscaping refreshed and a dead tree removed from the yard and it looks so much better.

One Sunday, Andrew and I took our annual BBQ and Bluebonnets trip. We ate at Truth BBQ in Brenham and the corn pudding was amazing. We went to a bluebonnet festival, which was really just a huge craft fair. Bluebonnets were hard to find - we even went to a state park in hopes of finding some but just got a snake instead. A small patch on the side of the road had to do for this year.

I need to go get these pages | sad year for bluebonnets | instagram repost, of Heidi and me, sorry.

I had brunch with my friend Heidi and every time I see her, I wonder why we go so long between chats and visits. It reminded me to be a better friend and text to say hi every so often. April is one of my busiest work months, so I got through that without any major crises. The biggest thing that happened in April, though, is that Andrew and his friends smoked a ton of meat, descended on the aforementioned bar nearby, and actually sold their barbecue to willing customers. It was basically a dream realized for them. I invited some friends who came out to support them and they fed strangers who went on social media and actually complimented them. It was a proud wife moment. They have already made plans for pop-up #2 and you're all invited. (Seriously, let me know if you want to come).

With work friends turned real life friends (can you tell which pic was stolen from snapchat and got the beauty filter treatment?) | there was an actual LINE. 

Other than that, I've been thrifting a ton (too much), working out occasionally, and going to restaurants. In April, I tried a Greek food trailer in my 'burb, a kolache house not too far away, and Mandola's Deli, an Italian spot pretty close to my office. I'm glad I use Swarm to keep track of that. That's what was new with me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

what to read, what not to read

This was one of those months where a few books didn't work out for me so I gave all books a break. I also kept thinking two books would get better, and they didn't. I've been looking forward to this link-up as a reset of sorts so I can add a few new things to my list and get back into things next month for sure.

Maybe good for you, but not for me:

Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny - I'm not sure why I read this. I guess I thought it would be an interesting glimpse into Holly Madison's life with Hugh Hefner. There were a few interesting tidbits (apparently Hef is super controlling and the mansion is a pigsty), but it was mostly a story about a woman who didn't know how to be on her own who made excuses for why she lived a lie for a decade. I felt like Holly made a lot of excuses for her choices - I wanted to tell her to own them! I mean clearly she ended up doing well for herself. A lot of detail about what being Hef's main girlfriend was like was eliminated, so if you want to know how that situation worked, don't waste your time. I gave this three stars on Goodreads but that seems too generous.

The Truth and Other Lies - I could never remember the title of this book and it took me over two weeks to get through. I read at a decent speed and make time for books I enjoy, so this is unheard of. I was intrigued by the plot - it's about a man running from his past who becomes a famous author, only his books are written by his wife - but the writing felt stilted and abrupt. There wasn't enough characterization for me to really feel anything about any of the characters. The author is German, so it seems that this book was translated, and I think that was a big part of it. The plot twist that sets the action in motion was very interesting, and I wanted to see where everything ended up, so I kept reading, but I just couldn't focus for more than a few pages at a time, and then I felt like the book just kind of ended without wrapping up a few things that were alluded to. Maybe I missed something? Two stars on Goodreads, and that almost felt generous.

(A) Pretty Girls - I thought this would be an interesting thriller. I mentioned last month that it was twenty hours long; most books I read are closer to eight! This is the story of two sisters uncovering the mystery of their sister who was kidnapped twenty years before. The detail and the bad guy in this book are truly sickening. I could feel myself making faces while I was listening to it; I felt like it was unnecessarily gory and disgusting. It was too much and it could have been a lot shorter. I gave it three stars because I liked how all of the pieces connected, but I can't say I recommend it. The audiobook contained a short story written by the author that covered the day the kidnapped sister was taken, but honestly, I was so over these characters that I didn't finish listening to it. I totally blame this for abandoning audiobooks for most of the month.

Consider these:

What Alice Forgot - If you like Liane Moriarty, read this. If you don't, then stay away because it's like all of her other books. I liked that this took the three characters/three storylines formula that are Moriarty's trademarks and made them more subtle. Basically, Alice falls down and hits her head and has forgotten the past ten years of her life. Moriarty did a good job of keeping readers in the dark so they were as confused as Alice.  It was interesting to wonder about my own reactions if I had forgotten the past ten years, but this book wasn't exactly deep. This is probably my favorite of her books - four stars.

(A) Dollbaby - This is one of those books that I really loved and I'm not exactly sure why. The narrator for the audio version was fantastic. The first third has elements of The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird, but Dollbaby is its own story. It's the story of a young (white) girl sent to live with her grandmother in New Orleans in the early 60's and the relationship they have with the (black) maids - a mother and daughter - in their home. Social issues unfold, but they're more of a background to the characters. Even though there isn't much action, it was enjoyable all the way through for me and I rated it a four on Goodreads (but really consider it more of a 4.5).

I'm currently listening to All This Life and I don't know what I think about it yet, but I think these characters will stay with me. I have Dept. of Speculation waiting on my kindle since I just finished The Truth... last night. After listening to The Armchair Librarians, I definitely want to move Shotgun Lovesongs up on my list. Have you listened to them yet? Now I feel like Steph and Jana are in my head, reading their posts to me. Linking up with them because it's always fun. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

day in the life: a typical monday

I've read some really detailed Day in the Life posts and I love them. It's strangely interesting to get some of the minutiae that makes up a person's day. I decided to plan for and take notes on my own. Here's a typical day in my life - this one happened to be Monday, May 2, 2016.

5:00 a.m.: My alarm goes off with a siren emoji and a note to go to the gym. Bauer actually started crying for his breakfast a few minutes before the alarm went off, so I was able to get out of bed a little more easily than usual. Get up, brush teeth, contacts in, and get dressed to get to the gym by 5:20. I only got through 28 minutes including cool down before I was ready to go home (I blame my boring book). When I got home, Andrew was already gone for the day, but he had a travel mug of coffee waiting for me.
6:00 a.m: Weighed myself and I had maintained the 5 lbs lost despite all of my terrible habits lately! Good way to start a Monday. Took a shower, applied self-tanner and prayed I wouldn't turn my legs orange, and realized the pants I planned to wear that day were still wet from being washed the night before. I had to find some others and iron them. Thanks, Monday.
7:00 a.m.: Dressed and ready to head out, but the pets needed feeding. Bauer tried a beef flavor of cat food that I had to text to his BBQ loving Dad. Pulled out of the driveway at 7:14 a.m. to a misty morning and listened to Beautiful/Anonymous episode 7 and read blog comments while stopped at red lights.

8:00 a.m: Mist and rain slowed my drive to work; I didn't get in until 8:18, oops. I was starving so it was time for breakfast - a toasted English muffin with strawberry jam. I sat down to check email and responded to one from the Dean of my school about hosting a law school competition next spring (I didn't think it was a great fit for us, but needed more info) and reviewed an order for electricity for our upcoming commencement (we're using a convention center and you have to pay for every little thing!).
9:00 a.m.: Emailed Sarah since she had left me a few blog comments and I hadn't talked to her in a while. Checked in with my boss on matters both personal and professional - she was dealing with a lot on this day, so there was more of that than usual. I had an outside group coming in to use our building the next day so I emailed them their AV needs and walked some paperwork to other offices - yay for getting up.
10:00 a.m.: Read blog comment emails and then back to more graduation work - this time, reviewing an AV quote and setting up a meeting to discuss details and securing hotel rooms for the commencement speaker and his aide.
11:00 a.m.: Take the website redesign survey I've been putting off for my school's upcoming overhaul. Emailed a dropbox link to students with photos from a previous event. One of my work BFFs stopped in to chat about our weekends, I had strawberries for a snack, texted Andrew, answered a gchat, and more talk with my boss and another coworker about the previous weekend and other assorted matters.
12:00 p.m.: Proofed and sent edits for an invitation postcard for an event in the fall. Confirmed details of aforementioned graduation AV meeting. Responded to a student who wanted me to save seats for her relatives in wheelchairs at graduation (sorry, I can't...).

My desk is always this messy.

1:00 p.m.: Some semi-work related Facebook creeping, and then finally get up to get my second cup of water and head out to lunch (a prepackaged spinach salad with feta, pecans, and sun-dried cranberries). I wanted to go enjoy the nice weather Houston was having but the tables from the development on the next block were missing and the ones on my school's new patio were wet from the morning's mist, so it was back to my desk after a ten minute walk. The spinach in my salad was watery but at least I could catch up on blogs and read Twitter for the first time all day.
2:00 p.m.: Some crackers and a smoked gouda (fake) cheese wedge to supplement the sad salad and an email to Bre about her new puppy ended my lunch break. Back to work, and the group using the building the next day had issues with the AV charges (as in, they didn't want to pay them) so I spent a lot of time calling other departments and digging through emails to find where the miscommunication happened.
3:00 p.m.: Figured out the miscommunication and got the approval to waive AV for the group coming the next day and communicated the plan to all of the right people. Sent multiple emails to first aid companies to get quotes for graduation only to find out our security director had already done it. Freak out because I had promised the Dean to draft an email by the end of the day and I had less than an hour to do it if I wanted to leave on time. Get it done fast and then read email from Bre and respond. We email pretty often during the week and they're always a highlight of my work day.
4:00 p.m.: Check my alternate work email account and have a few nice emails from students - always a plus! Take something to the 8th floor and take the stairs down to my office on two. Leave a few minutes late (4:37) and finish Beautiful/Anonymous on the drive home and start an episode of Embedded.
5:00 p.m.: Get home at 5:28. Andrew calls as I pull into the driveway and we discuss our dinner options while I change clothes to take Duncan for a 30 minute walk. The weather is awesome and breezy and I finish Embedded and re-listen to an episode of Breakdown that I only halfway paid attention to to make sure I could recommend it in my podcasts post later in the week.

Bauer needs attention the second I walk in the door.

6:00 p.m.: I walked down our street with Duncan as Andrew was driving down it coming home. I check the mail, and then we get dinner started - spaghetti and meatballs. Easy meals are our focus during the week. Andrew's friend had big BBQ news so they chatted on the phone (so quaint!) and I tried on some tank tops a coworker passed on to me and changed clothes... again. I think since I knew I was writing this post, I was motivated to do a lot, so I cleaned the toilet, started a load of laundry, wiped down the bathroom counter, and loaded the dishwasher. By 6:55, we sat down to eat. We normally eat in the breakfast nook and have a no phones at the table rule, but we can see the TV and it's usually on. This night was the James Beard Awards (the Oscars of food), so it was streaming on the laptop while we ate.
7:00 p.m.: Wind down time - after dinner, I snuggled Bauer, scrolled instagram, listened to the awards, and read a few pages of my book. I went outside and threw the ball with Duncan and cleaned up the newspaper he ripped apart (that I accidentally left in the backyard... oops).
8:00 p.m.: Justin Yu, the chef from one of my favorite restaurants, won a Beard award! That was fun to watch. Had fun reading the twitter craziness, texted Amanda some unsolicited wedding advice, and proofread Andrew's blog post (if you're in Houston, check out his 50 favorite restaurants!).

Bauer didn't like that I interrupted him from destroying the blanket for a pic.

9:00 p.m.: Fun fact: I like to sing random songs while I do the dishes. This night, it was "Take it on the Run" by REO Speedwagon. No idea where that came from. Followed Andrew around the house being obnoxious and singing "The Most Stripiest Boy in the World" to the tune of "Most Beautiful Girl in the World" to Bauer. Then I changed the litter box, had a bite of cocoa almond spread since my sweet tooth needed something, took a shower, and fed Bauer.
10:00 p.m.: Normal bedtime routine and then watched some Conan. I read a few more pages of my book and then fell asleep somewhere around 10:40.

Just a regular old day in the life. I walked somewhere around 11,000 steps, sent 33 emails, ate two meals and multiple snacks, had one cup of coffee, spent about two hours in the car, and spent a ton of time taking notes on my phone about what I did. It was a pretty good day.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

three on thursday: podcasts

A book I listened to this month (more info coming Tuesday) put me in a major book slump. So, I went back to my old friend, podcasts. After loving Serial season one and not loving season two, I didn't know what to listen to next. I did some research and found some I really like. If you need something to fill the void, may I suggest one of these?

Breakdown - Remember the story in the news a few years ago about the Atlanta father who left his son in a hot car and the poor child died? It came out that the dad was sexting and possibly needed a break from his kid, so he was arrested and tried for murder. The second season of Breakdown covers that case. It's a really in depth look about the case itself and legal things like the charges, legal precedent, and jury selection. I now understand voir dire (mostly) and can tell you all about malice murder vs. felony murder. Breakdown is the work of a newspaper reporter, so many different sides are examined and experts are consulted. I'm hooked. I skipped season one because this case interested me more, but now that I'm caught up, I'll have to go back to it.

Embedded - If you listen to NPR and like All Things Considered, then check this one out. Embedded covers a different story each episode and the reporter attempts to get fully embedded in a topical story. One episode was about trying to understand what led up to the motorcycle gang shoot out in Waco, Texas last year and another followed a man through immigration court. All of these stories did a fantastic job of humanizing their subjects and really making listeners see things in three dimensions, as opposed to our preconceived notions of good or bad.

Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People - I've said a million times that I love hearing or reading about other people's lives. This podcast (Beautiful/Anonymous for short) is hosted by comedian Chris Gethard. In each episode, he takes an anonymous phone call from one person. The calls last about an hour and Chris isn't allowed to hang up first. The caller can talk about anything. It's fascinating to hear about people's upbringings and subsequent issues, dissatisfaction with parts of their lives now, dreams for the future, definitions of masculinity, or simply what their lives are like. Chris Gethard is so likable, asks great questions, listens well, and truly empathizes with all of his callers. I haven't listened to all of them, but for some reason Mountain Man vs. City Boy is my favorite so far.

Many thanks to Steph for the three on Thursday idea. I love that her posts are always short and sweet, so I attempted the same. My favorite thing about podcasts is that they're free and readily available. Let me know all about your favorites!

Monday, May 2, 2016

a currently post

I just read Kristin's post about blogging every day in May which I actually did in 2013 (! such a baby blogger!) and I was inspired to try to blog more than I have been in May. It's currently Sunday night and I still need to do things to get ready for the week, so why not start off slow and easy with a Currently post (and to keep copying Kristin, I'm using the categories from her most recent one. You know what they say about imitation and flattery and all of that).

So, I'm currently...

Watching: Nashville is my guilty pleasure. It's so awful and ridiculous that I can't get enough. I'm trying to make myself watch Fear the Walking Dead but I'm just not that into it. I started season two of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and I just don't love it. Is it the show, or is it me?

Trying: to be more intentional with my time. I waste so much of it mindlessly scrolling instagram, facebook, and twitter, or napping, or watching a show I don't like (see above) and then feel overwhelmed with responsibility when I need to clean my house or find a new dog bed to buy or other boring adult activities. I cleaned my floors when I wanted to laze and listed things on Poshmark earlier this afternoon, so I'm currently giving myself a gold star in that department.

Reading: The Truth and Other Lies. I can't get into it. The story is compelling enough, but the writing isn't doing anything for me. I'm 33% done so we'll see if I get through it or move on.

Enjoying: the last vestiges of spring before summer's humidity hits. All of the jasmine in bloom everywhere I turn around (I need to figure out where jasmine thrives and plant some of my own).

Noticing: that I need new mascara, and to put self tanner on my legs, and a haircut, and probably a pedicure, too.

Buying: shoes for Andrew, a new bed for Duncan, jeans for me. I haven't worn Levi's since I was a kid, but I read about these on Pretty Providence and I think I love them. I couldn't find the right size/color combo at my Macy's so I ordered them online. Only $32 with coupons and free shipping - gotta love it.

Thinking about: blog post ideas and making it more of a priority, finding a new book to read, dinner with my friends on Wednesday, and the Saigon Cinnamon ice cream that Andrew grabbed at the store today.