Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Humpday Confessions (Vol. 4)

Yesterday, while commenting on a fellow blogger's page about her review of Andre Agassi's memoir, Open, I admitted that when I was in high school and college that I had a BIG crush on the flamboyant tennis player.  I went on to admit that I used to have a thing for guys with long hair.

And, as my mind often does, one thought led to another and to another and then it hit me - I still have a thing for guys with long hair and, looking back, I guess I always have. My celebrity/famous person crushes come from diverse walks of life - rock stars, actors, and athletes.  However, they all have one thing in common - long hair.

So, I confess.  I like guys with long hair.  Even when long hair isn't trendy for men, I still like it.

Let's take a little trip down memory lane to illustrate my point.


My first celebrity crush was on the 70s teen idol, Leif Garrett.

In the 80s, my crushes included John Taylor (bassist for Duran Duran) 

and the love of my life, Jon Bon Jovi.

In the 90s, my love affair with Jon Bon Jovi continued and I developed crushes on the Nelson twins of the band Nelson, Andre Agassi, and Brad Pitt.





Since the millennium, I've had crushes on the late Heath Ledger

Colin Farrell

Troy Palomalu


Clay Matthews

Charlie Hunnam

and Sam Heughan, a.k.a Jamie Fraser of the Stars series, Outlander.

Now, I honestly have no clue what draws me to guys with long hair, but apparently I am hard wired to gravitate towards them because this has been going on for nearly 40 years! (Yes, you read that correctly - nearly 40 years.  Leif Garrett's disco hit, "I Was Made For Dancin'", came out in 1978...)  Funny thing is, despite my love of long hair on men, my husband does not have long hair, never has, and, according to him, never will!  LOL!   

This will be my last blog entry for 2015.  I thank you for stopping by and taking time to read my blog.  May you have a safe and happy New Year's Eve and my 2016 bring you good health, prosperity, and much happiness. Happy New Year!

Linking up with Alanna @ Alanna and Company and Sarah @ Plucky in Love.

*1.6.2016 Update:  Because there was no Humpday Confession linkup on 12.30.2015, I am linking up this post today. :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Show Us Your Books - Best of 2015

Earlier this month, I listed my top 10 books of 2015 in post for another linkup (click here).  For this Show Us Your Books - Best of 2015 post (hosted by Steph @ Life According to Steph and Jana @ Jana Says), I wanted to do something a little different in lieu of simply recycling my earlier post.  This post was partially inspired by my high school yearbook superlatives and by the upcoming award show season.  Drum roll, please...

*Books and characters considered for this list did not necessarily have to be published in 2015, only read or listened by me in 2015.


Best audiobook performance - Santino Fontana, narrator of YOU by Caroline Kepnes

Oh. My. Heavens!  I cannot sing enough praises about Santino's vocal performance on YOU for it was un-freakin-believable and out of this world awesome!  He breathed a uniqueness into each of the characters and completely owned the main character of Joe.  Oh, and his deep voice was pure bliss to listen to.  I said it then and I'll say it now - I could listen to Mr. Fontana read medical journals and stereo instructions on repeat all day long and never tire of his voice. (See my review here.)


Best book boyfriend - Boyce Winn
Sweet by Tammara Webber

I devoured this book over the summer and Mr. Boyce Winn had a lot to do with it.  I thoroughly enjoyed his character and I did develop a teensy bit of a literary crush on him.  In my review of Sweet, I said,  "If Boyce Winn had a theme song it would be "Real Good Man" by Tim McGraw."  If you are unfamiliar with the song or the lyrics, here ya go:

"Girl, you've never known no one like me
Up there in your high society
They might tell you I'm no good
Girl, they need to understand
Just who I am 
I may be a real bad boy 
But, baby, I'm a real good man" 
(full lyrics here)


I really need not say more...  Sigh.

Book most recommended by me - The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

After I finished this book in January, I told everyone I knew - avid readers and infrequent readers alike - to check out this book.  It remained my favorite mystery/thriller novel of 2015 until it was dethroned by the following book.


The best book that I read in 2015 that is still relatively unknown - The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Yes, in my opinion, this mystery/thriller was the best one I read/listened to this year.  Sadly, not many people have heard of it.  It did receive a nomination nod for a Goodreads Choice Award in the Best Mystery & Thriller category, but was beaten by the book above.  (See my review here.)  I highly recommend it.


Best YA book - I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I have read several really good YA books this year.  What makes this book stand out above the others is the quality of the story, the quality of the writing, the fluid, believable dialogue, and the unique format in which the story was told.  (See my review here.)


Book that was the most unexpected surprise - What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I was honestly just expecting a chick-lit story.  I had no idea how intriguing the story would be and that it would keep me guessing all the way to the end.  Also, I had no idea that that characters would be so distinctive and that I would think about them when I wasn't listening to the book.  This was a thoroughly enjoyable book! (See my review here.)


Most beautifully written book - All the Light We Cannot See by Jonathan Doerr

As I listened to All the Light We Cannot See, I remember thinking that the prose was so fluid and so rich in detail, that it was almost like listening to poetry.  (See my review here.)


Most poignant, charming, quirky tale - A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

I read this book back in July.  Even now, six months later, I still think of Ove and the journey I took with him.  I laughed, I teared up, my heart was touched, and I laughed some more.  (See my review here.)


Best heroine - Willowdean Dixon
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Having always been a stout gal  myself, I really identified with Willowdean.  I know that my common ground with this character has probably skewed my opinion of her character, but I still stand by decision that she is the best heroine of all the books I read this year. It's not easy being a teenager, let alone an overweight teenager.  Even though I didn't care for some of Willowdean's actions, she rallied in the end and learned to truly embrace herself while opening up herself to infinite possibilities. 


Most worthy of all the hoopla - The Martian by Peter Weir

This book kept popping up in my life for months before I finally decided to give it a whirl.  Other reading challenge participants were reading it, bloggers were reviewing it and giving it glowing reviews, and every time I passed the book section in Target or Walmart - there it was.  Well, it really is worthy of all the hype and hoopla. (See my review here.)

What do you think?  What are some of your best books from 2015?

I wish you a very Happy New Year!  May 2016 bring you good health, prosperity, and happiness.  As always, thanks for stopping by!



Friday, December 25, 2015

Simply Me (Vol. 3) - "Holiday Traditions"

Holiday Traditions Q & A

Q:  It's Christmas today, what are your holiday traditions?
A:  It depends on where I am.  This year, I am in West Virginia with my parents.  Last night, I gathered with my mom's side of the family, all 8 of us, at my grandparents' house and exchanged presents as we have for many, many Christmas Eves.  My mother's side of the family has never strayed from this tradition.

This morning after breakfast, my parents and I will open presents here in the same house I grew up in.  Even though I am over 40, the three of us have never departed from the tradition of opening our gifts from one another on Christmas morning.  Even when I am not here, Mom and Si open their presents Christmas morning.  

Later this afternoon, we will join my aunt and two uncles at my grandparent's house again for our traditional Christmas dinner - ham, turkey, dumplings, dressing, cranberry salad, corn, green beans, rolls, and this Christmas punch that my mom always makes.


Next year, I will rotate holidays and will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day in Kentucky with my husband and his family.  Being apart for the holidays isn't ideal or easy, but when you're part of a blended family, you just have to do the best you can with the cards you've been dealt.

Q:  Do you decorate the house?
A:  A little.  I live in a very small house, so decorating can be quite...challenging.  For every decoration that comes out, something has to be relocated or stored somewhere in order to make space for the decorative item.  If I had a bigger house, I might do more, but I don't.  

Q:  What about those stockings?  Do you hang those?  
A:  Sometimes, it all depends on my mood from year to year.  This year, I did not hang them up.  We were late in getting our decorations up, so I decided to skip them.

Q:  What did you want for Christmas?  (If you post after Christmas, tell me if you got it.)
A:  I want a Hawaiian cruise with an additional 3 day land tour.  Seriously!  LOL!  I doubt I will get it, though.  That kind of present from Santa requires some stellar behavior all year long and I know I'm not up for the challenge.  I just really enjoy being ornery from time to time!  LOL!  I'll just have to keep saving up for Hawaii - it will be a Christmas present to myself one day!

Q:  What was the best Christmas gift you received?
A:  I'm not sure if the prompt is referring to best gift received this Christmas or the best gift I've ever received.  So, I'm going to refer you to my post from Tuesday, in case you haven't seen it already, in which I countdown the 10 most memorable Christmas gifts from my youth.  

Q:  Did you have everything you need in life?  
A:  Yes.  I have a roof over my head and food to eat.  I have a job that I usually enjoy that pays me enough so that I can pay for the roof over my head, the food that I eat, the clothes that I wear, the water that runs out of the faucet, the electricity that keeps my house comfortable, the car that I drive, and the gas I put into my car.  Once all the bills are paid, there is enough left over to do some fun stuff and to allow me some indulgences in life like Redken shampoo and conditioner, hand soap and hand sanitizer from Bath and Body Works, massages, and audiobooks.  I have a great husband who loves me and "gets" me, a wonderful, supportive family whom I am very close with, and some of the most awesome friends a gal could ever have.  Everything else that comes my way in this life is just an added bonus.

What are some of your Christmas traditions (if you celebrate Christmas)?

Wishing you blessings of peace and happiness.


Linking up with Liz @ Sundays with Sophie 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Gifts of My Youth

A few weeks ago, my octogenarian grandmother asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  Before I knew it, I let out an audible groan and said, "Gran, I don't know."  This EXACT exchange has been going on for the better part of two decades now.  

You see, my family will say that I'm picky.  I prefer the word - particular.  I have very particular tastes and there are some things that I just prefer to pick out myself - clothes, shoes, and electronics.  And, I sure as hell don't want to open up a gift to find socks or underwear!  It wasn't fun as a kid and it isn't fun as an adult.  Compounding the difficulty my family has when shopping for me is the fact that I'm forty-something years old with a good paying job and if I want something, I usually just go out and get it for myself instead of delaying my gratification and reserving it for someone to get me for Christmas.  

My grandmother then let out a disappointed sigh and said, "I'll just give you money then.  Shopping for you when you were a kid was so easy.  All I had to do was give you the Sears Wish Book and an ink pen and tell you to mark away."

The Sears Wish Book!  What a blast from my Christmas past!  Instantly, my mind was flooded with memories of sitting at my grandmother's kitchen table, turning the pages with such intense anticipation, ink pen in hand, ready to circle anything and everything that caught my eye.  Marking my selections in that catalog was such an integral part of my childhood Christmas experience.  I mean, really...  It wasn't Christmas season until I got to pick things out of the Sears Wish Book. 

Remember any of these?  Chances are, if you were a kid in the 70s or 80s, then you do and you probably had a similar ritual with your parents or grandparents.

Thinking about the Sears Wish Book naturally led me to think about all the things I marked throughout the years, some that I received, some that I did not, which led me to today's Top 10 Tuesday post:

The Top 10 Most Memorable Christmas Gifts 
I Received as a Kid/Teen

10.  Cabbage Patch Kid - Why in the world kids all over the world went loco for these creepy looking dolls is beyond me.  The Cabbage Patch doll may have been one of the first "must have" Christmas items in which people lost their ever-loving minds doing whatever they could to get their hands on one.  Every kid HAD to have one and I, too, got caught up in the hype.  Given that I wasn't one to play with dolls (other than Barbie), I think my mom was just so thrilled that I wanted this girly item that she somehow secured one for me.  If I'm remembering correctly, my Cabbage Patch Kid looked a lot like this one. Her name was Florentina and her birth certificate was, I kid you not, in spanish!  Desperate times call for desperate measures and sometimes that means getting a spanish Cabbage Patch Kid for your non-spanish speaking youngin'.  LOL! 
9.  Roller Skates.  Through the magical power of the internet, I found a picture of the skates that are identical to the ones I received.  Apparently these skates were very popular in 1979!  
8.  Boom Box.  Again through the magic of the internet, I was able to find a picture of a Panasonic Boom Box that is identical to the one my father gave me for Christmas either in 1983 or 1984.  That boom box was awesome!  I used it all the way through college (in the 1990s), somehow managing to hook up my portable CD player to it!  They just don't make electronics like that anymore.
7. Barbie Swimming Pool.  My bedroom was like a virtual Barbieland in the 1980s, so of course I would have a pool!  LOL!  My mom, bless her heart, even let me fill it up with water and on more than one occasion I made a huge mess on the carpet.  No pretend pool water for my Barbies...

6.  Legos.  I spent hours and hours and hours building with these colorful blocks and apparently my mom spent hours and hours picking up little, stray pieces that I overlooked!  Here I am with my Dorothy Hamill do, talking on the phone while constructing an architectural masterpiece!
5.  Sony Sports Walkman.  I was around 12 or 13 years old when I received this gift.  I was so excited to get it because it gave me the freedom to listen "on the go," as long I could could provide batteries, and to be secretive about the music I was listening to.  We all know how important the illusion of privacy is to teenagers.  My Walkman looked exactly like this and I think I still have it in a drawer at my parents's house.
4.  Minolta Maximum.  This was my very first 35mm camera.  Being the yearbook photographer in high school, I must have taken THOUSANDS of pictures with that camera.  I loved taking pictures.  Here is a rare shot of the photographer (holding said camera) being photographed.  (As for the kooky outfit... When I was a sophomore, I was also a "server" at the Jr./Sr. Prom, an honor bestowed upon unsuspecting sophomores, and that's why I had that crazy angel costume on.  The prom theme that year had something to do with castles and clouds and heaven or something...)
3.  Barbie Dream House.  I mentioned earlier that my childhood bedroom was a virtual Barbieland.  Well, I wasn't kidding.  This is the house that my Barbies lived in. 
And...my Barbies also had a Dream Cottage for them to visit on the weekends.  LOL!  I took my Barbie playing very seriously!  Here is a picture of the cottage from what was is probably a page from the Sears Wish Book that I found online.

2.  Fisher Price Joey Doll.  Ah, my beloved Joey.  I took him everywhere, dragging him along wherever I went.  I carried him by the arm so much that his arm eventually detached from his body and my mom or granny had to sew it back on.  I've gotten rid of most of my childhood toys, but I still have Joey.  He was my very first friend.
1.  Letterman Jacket.  My high school was very small and only offered the bare minimum in terms of sports, so it was a big deal to be a "letterman."  Both my mom and stepfather taught there, so from a very early age, I was always "around" for after school activities and sporting events.  I can remember when I was about 9 or 10, looking at those maroon and gold letterman jackets and thinking, "I can't wait to get my own one day."  I lettered in both academics and softball my freshman year, so I was eligible to get my jacket in the fall of my sophomore year.  My father got it for me for Christmas that year and that was the only coat I wore from that December until the winter of my freshman year of college (when it was no longer cool to wear your high school jacket).  It is the one piece of high school memorabilia that I refuse to part with. 

Thank you for accompanying me on this trip down Christmas memory lane!  

What items from your youth would make your Top 10 Most Memorable Gifts list?  Please feel free to share for I would love to know!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Challenges, Challenges - Book Challenge by Erin 4.0, 2016 Audiobook Challenge, and 2015 Authors A to Z Reading Challenge


A blogger acquaintance of mine and fellow Bon Jovi fan, Erin @ Texerin-in-Sydneyland, is hosting a book challenge that starts on January 1.  It is appropriately titled, "Book Challenge by Erin 4.0"  LOL!  The challenge consists of 10 categories, requires 10 books, and lasts for 4 full months.  Below are the categories and my preliminary books I have chosen.

5 pts. Any book that is at least 200 pages long
Allegiant by Veronica Roth

10 pts. A book that starts with D
Dust to Dust by Tami Hoag

10 pts. A book with a 4 word title
Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos

15 pts. A book with “mother,” “father,” “daughter,” “son”, or “child" in title (plurals are allowed) 
Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

20 pts. A currently ranked “most popular author” on Amazon that is new to me
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (Honestly, I’ve never ready ANY of her books before)

20 pts. A book set in any country in Asia

The Day of the Wave by Becky Wicks

25 pts. A book with a season in the title
Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah

30 pts. A funny book from the list @ www.buzzfeed.com/erinchack/books-guaranteed-to-make-you-laugh-out-loud
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

30 pts. A book that is a favorite of a friend or family member
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (One of my best friend's all-time faves & a re-read for me)

35 pts. A book published in the year I was born
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

If you are interesting in participating in this challenge or just want more information, click here.  Even if you're not interested, pop on over to her page anyway and have a look-see.  Erin is a hoot and one of my favorite bloggers to follow!


I just completed the 2015 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the gals at Hot Listens and The Book Nympho (see my wrap up post here).  Because I really, really like audiobooks, I've decided to participate in the challenge again for the upcoming year.  My goal for 2016 will again be the Marathoner Level (50+ audiobooks).  For more information about this challenge, click here.


I'm going to go ahead and get this post out of the way even though I still have about a week and a half left in the year.  None of the books I plan to read or listen to between now and New Year's will help me out in terms of completing this challenge, so I'm just going to go ahead and call it.  

I came close, but... Well, you know how the old saying goes, "Close, but no cigar..."

This is the first reading challenge that I did not complete.  Admittedly, I must say that this challenge was never a priority for me. I'm not sure why, but it was never in the forefront my mind. My participation was more of an afterthought. If I read a book and the author's last name just happened to start with a letter I needed to fulfill, then I added it. Never did I deliberately read a book just because the author's last name started with a letter I needed. I do enjoy challenges, but this challenge wasn't really my cup to tea. I don't plan on participating in this challenge next year. Anyway, here's my final list. I completed 20 out of 26 letters.


A ...
B - A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (review)
C - Sunset Express by Robert Crais
D - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer (review)
E - The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan
F - The Fixer by Joseph Finder
G - Looking for Alaska by John Green
H - Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover (review)
I  ...
J - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (review)
K - YOU by Caroline Kepnes (review)
L  ...
M - My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall (review)
N - I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (mini review here)
O - Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (review)
P - Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto
Q - Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (review)
R - Landline by Rainbow Rowell (mini review)
S - Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (review)
T - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
U   ...
V   ...
W - Sweet by Tammara Webber (review)
X   ...
Y - Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (review)
Z - The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (mini review here)

Are you participating in Erin's challenge or the 2016 Audiobook Challenge?  Let me know if you are.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Friday Reflections (Not on Friday) - Vol. 5 - New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

When I was a teenager and young adult in my early 20s, I made New Year's Resolutions.  I did so because that was the thing to do, it was New Year's after all, and, frankly, because I didn't know any better.

Our society, through movies, TV shows, and the notorious weight loss commercials that, by my prediction, will start appearing on December 26, overly romanticizes New Year's and, in my opinion, makes the holiday out to be way more powerful than it actually is.  

Remember the scene from Forrest Gump, when Forrest is in New York City staying with Lieutenant Dan and they are at a bar for New Year's Eve?  One of Lt. Dan's female friends, "Long Limbs" Lenore, enthusiastically points to the TV coverage of Times Square, announcing that she and her friend were just there.  She then says, "Don't you just love New Year's?  You get to start all over.  Everyone get's a second chance." 

I don't mean to sound harsh, but I don't believe that for one second.  

For some reason, Americans (I'm not sure if other cultures or nationalities do this or not, so that's why I didn't say "humans"), like to believe that when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, that something magical happens - that we are transformed and our slates are magically erased.  Contrary to that romantic notion, nothing changes when the clock strikes twelve except the date and time.  At midnight on January 1, we are still the same people we were on December 31 at 11:59pm - we're just one minute older.

So, as you've probably already deduced by now, no, I do not make New Year's Resolutions.

I read an article a few years back that estimated that only about 10% of those who make New Year's resolutions actually succeed at keeping them.  Given those numbers, the odds are definitely not in anyone's favor of keeping a New Year's resolution.  I believe the reason so many New Year's resolutions fall by the wayside is because people make them because it's a new year and that's what society expects us to do (because of the romantic notion our culture tends to have).  Studies in psychology have long indicated that a person will only lose weight, get out debt, spend less, save more, quit smoking, declutter, exercise more, etc. if that person is, as they say in poker, "all in."  If people make New Year's resolutions because they feel that they have to just because it's a new year instead of truly wanting to, then chances are the resolution will not last very long.

I don't make New Year's Resolutions because I refuse to let the date on the calendar dictate when I'm going to make a change in my life.  Knowing myself as I do, I know that if I'm not all in, that I will fail with my half hearted attempt.  Why do that to myself?  

I think change is good and often essential.  I believe self reflection is healthy. I believe in growth and improvement.  Most importantly, I believe change and growth can happen anytime, not just when a new year rolls around.
http://www.reflectionsfromme.com


Linking up with Mackenzie @ Reflections from Me 
and Janine @ Reflections from a Redhead.   
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