Monday, December 31, 2018

Things I Did in 2018 (That I Have Never Done Before)

Hiked (as opposed to simply taking a walk)

Watched a state legislative session in person

Visited Colorado and New Mexico 

Was featured in yearbooks for two different elementary schools

Sat with a faculty other than Heritage Elementary on opening day

Visited the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.

Operated a power sander

Shopped at IKEA

Helped rip up carpet

Ate Key Lime Pie

Ate Lobster Mac-n-Cheese


What's something you did this year that you've never done before?

Wishing you a blessed and very Happy New Year!

Linking up with:

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

My 2018 - Wordless Wednesday (Vol. 40)

Left - Right, Top - Bottom:
Walking in the snow - January
Turtle Chinese Lantern - April
Huge slice of cake - February
Snowy evening - March
Raindrops on leaf - May
Delicate Arch - June
Def Leppard - July
The Nina - August
Pinkish sunrise - September
Joe Bonamassa - November
Pristine beach - October
Chocolate chip cookies - December

Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season!

Linking up with Wordless Wednesday

Show Us Your Books - Best Of 2018

2018 is almost history.  But, before the ball drops and the new year is ushered in, please join me as I share my "Best of" books of 2018.  In keeping with last year's "senior superlatives" type list, here are this year's honors:

Best Book I Read That Is Still Relatively Unknown
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

The Running Dream, the story of a runner who loses part of her leg in an accident and how the experience opens her eyes to the experience of a classmate, has 21,138 ratings on Goodreads and 3,273 reviews.  As far as YA books go, I thought this one was well written, poignant, and packed a punch in a short amount of time. 

Best Unexpected Surprise
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I had read two of Rowell's books previously (Landline and Fangirl) and neither "wowed" me like they did other people.  So, I was a little apprehensive about Eleanor & Park.  But, I was pleasantly surprised.  The story and the pop culture references of the 1980s made for a very enjoyable read.

Most Worthy of All the Hoopla
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In my humble opinion, Taylor Jenkins Reid can do no wrong.  

Most Disturbing
Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Oh, man...  As I said in my review of Tampa, Tampa was a hard book for me and I could only stomach it for short periods of time.  But, despite the unsettling content, it was a book that kept me guessing what would happen in the end.

Favorite Character of 2018
Britt-Marie from Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Backman has a knack of creating quirky, memorable characters whom I find so endearing that I often find myself thinking of them long after I've finished the book.  Just as I've thought about Ove from Backman's, A Man Called Ove, over the years, I've thought a lot about Britt-Marie this year.  Britt-Marie loves lists, bicarbonate of soda, and precision.  In her world, things must be just so.  She dislikes writing things in ink and soccer.  Her many quirks made her very interesting and quite funny. 

Most Beautifully Written

I bestowed this honor upon Celeste Ng's book, Everything I Never Told You, last year.  Ng has a writing style that is eloquent and beautiful without being lofty and arrogant.  She has been a pleasure to read.


What are some of the best books you read this year?  Please share, for I'm always on the lookout for a great read!

I hope this finds you having had a wonderful holiday season!  May 2019 bring you much happiness, good health, and great reads!  

 Linking up with Steph and Jana

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men...

Things I Meant to Do This Year...  But Didn't

Paint the hallway leading from the great room to the bedrooms
Finish Erin's 9th Reading Challenge
Read/listen to 45 books this year (Goodreads Challenge)
Celebrate my 15th wedding anniversary in Hawaii
See the musical Waitress
Sell more things on eBay (I sold some stuff, just not as much as I intended to)
Spend time on the water kayaking with my 'yak buddies
Go on a girls' weekend getaway with my best friend
Complete the Blog All About It Challenge

Things I Didn't Plan to Do This Year...  But Did

Replace carpet in master bedroom with hardwood
Celebrate my 15th wedding anniversary in the Florida Keys
Fall in love with the Florida Keys
Hike/climb to the top of Angel's Landing in Zion National Park
Completely gut and renovate both spare bedrooms (we planned to only renovate one)
Enjoy hiking as much as I do
Watch all seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy in their entirety again
Attend the March for Our Lives demonstration

What's something you planned to do this year but didn't?  Or is there something you didn't plan to do but did?

Linking up with:

*Inspired by Steph's post

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Recently Read - Vol. 32 (Oct. and Nov. '18)

My reading has been subpar for most of the year due to ...  Who knows?  I mean, there are all kinds of reasons.  Despite my attempts to address the reasons, my lackluster interest in reading persists.  Back in the summer, I decided to quit obsessing about it and just go with it.  If I feel like reading (or in my case, listening to an audiobook), then I do;  if I don't feel like it, I don't.  I used to be quite an avid reader, but, as things so often go in life, things have changed and now I'm not.  Oh, well...

Since the last Show Us Your Books day that I participated in (October), I've listened to 3 audiobooks.  Two of the books  were written by the same author, performed by the same voice artist, and both were published in the early to mid nineties.  Listening to them was like opening a time capsule back to a time before the internet, before cell phones, before GPS.  It was a strange little trip down memory lane.

Native Tongue by Carl Hiaasen
Format: Audibook
My rating: 3/5

THINK:  The last two critters of an endangered species go missing from a theme park in the Florida Keys and all hell breaks loose.

As I've mentioned many times before, in my experience readers either love this author or hate him.  Given that I continue to read his work, I fall into the former.  I like Hiaasen's noir humor and the cast of crazy characters that he creates with each book.  In Native Tongue, we are introduced to a phone sex worker, a steroid-addicted security guard, a sweet old lady, two not-so-smart thieves, an aspiring actress, a member of the witness protection program, and a former governor of Florida who now lives as a recluse in the Everglades.

This is not the funniest Hiaasen book that I've ever read.  Overall, I would classify it as merely "okay."  It passed the time and I did enjoy the cultural references to the late 80s/early 90s.  It was very much like opening a time capsule given that it was first published in 1991.

FINAL VERDICT:  Skip unless you are a Hiaasen fan.

Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen
Format: Audiobook
My rating: 4/5

THINK:  After a hurricane decimates south Florida, all kinds of scam artists come out of the woodwork.

I thought this one was funnier than Native Tongue.  I just found the situations and characters funnier.  I also enjoyed the trip down memory lane with references to the cars and popular culture of the mid-90s (Stormy Weather was first published in 1996). This book's crazy cast includes: a couple on their honeymoon, a sleazy double wide salesman, a con artist/gold digger, and the heir to a hurricane-destroyed wildlife farm whose exotic animals are on the loose.  The former Florida governor turned recluse, who goes by the name "Skink," is also in this book.

FINAL VERDICT:  Skip unless you are a Hiaasen fan.

The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard
Format: Audiobook
My Rating: 4/5

THINK:  A story of a top secret town in Tennessee whose sole mission was so important to the war efforts that most of the workers who worked there during WWII had no idea what they were working on.

My mother recommended this book to me and I'm glad she did.  I particularly enjoy WWII historical fiction, but all the books I've read of this time period took place elsewhere, such as France or Russia.  It was nice to get a glimpse of the war efforts on the home front from several different perspectives (that of a young girl, that of a physicist, and that of a black construction worker). 


Well, there you have it, my whopping three reads from the past two months.  LOL!  I guess three is better than zero, right?  Hope this finds you enjoying the holiday season.  Happy reading!

Linking up with Steph and Jana

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Currently... (Vol. 34)

Disbelieving...  how many of my students have a freakin' Elf on a Shelf!

Laughing...  at some of the names of my students' elves.  Here's a random sampling:  Tinkerbell, Tink, Belle, Jinglebell, Scout, Snow, Cotton, Presents, Red, Henry, Buddy, Snowflake, Elfis, Sprite, Herald, Sparkles, Twinkles, and Shelvin.

Simplifying...  my Christmas season.  Actually, this isn't anything new, but I feel even more compelled to "keep it simple" this year and focus on the holiday traditions and events that actually bring me joy instead of stress me out.

Ready...  to wear my collection of Christmas t-shirts to work!

Cancelling...  my MoviePass account.  I retracted my original recommendation in this post back in October.  Since then, the restrictions have worsened and I'm no longer willing to give them any more chances.  Buh-bye...

Dealing...  with the chaos created by the unplanned, mini-renovation of my master bedroom.  Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we had to rip up the carpet. In lieu of new carpet, we decided to replace it with hardwood.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Nope.  After ripping up the carpet in the closet, we discovered a water leak which lead to the discovery of mold...  

Watching...  Outlander on STARZ, Escape from Dannemora on Showtime...

...and Christmas movies on AMC and Freeform.

Reading...  YES, like with my eyeballs, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist.

Listening...  to the audiobook The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard.

Acclimating...  to my new mattress (which we replaced in addition to the carpet).  It's super comfy, but like most things, takes a little getting used to.

Confessing...  that my self-imposed spending freeze for November went bust the first week due to the impromptu mini-renovation of my bedroom. 

Laughing...  at this:

Agreeing...  with these (especially right now with the stress of home renovation):

November in a Snapshot:

1) Scenes from the park, the first snow (Nov. 10), walking, Joe Bonamassa in concert.
2) Celebrating M's 40th birthday!
3) New sneakers, let the laying of hardwood commence, in desperate need of a date
with L'Oreal, the second snow (Nov. 27)

What have you been up to lately?  

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season!

Linking up with:

Thursday, November 22, 2018

3 Reasons Why I'd Go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Again

At approximately 5:00 a.m., I found myself standing on the cold, city sidewalk in the pre-dawn darkness.  I wore multiple layers, a parka, gloves, and two pairs of socks, but still felt the cold seeping up through the soles of my shoes.  Sunrise was still hours away and I had at least 6 hours of standing ahead of me.  My feet were beginning to feel numb.  That's when it occurred to me that I should've brought a stadium cushion so I could at least sit down.  Lessons learned, I thought, lessons learned.  Unwilling to sit down on the freezing concrete, I stood and waited.

Typically, I'd be asleep at that hour, blissfully enjoying the warmth of my bed and the fact that I had the day off from work.  I'd get up leisurely after the sun had risen, enjoy a  breakfast of eggs and bacon in lieu of the on-the-go breakfast I usually ate while en route to work, and around 9 a.m. I'd turn on the TV and participate in my longstanding tradition, one that dates back to may early childhood in the late 1970s - watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

But, on that particular fourth Thursday in November, I broke from tradition and that's how I found myself, along with my mother and my aunt, standing on the corner of 7th Avenue and 53rd Street* in New York City at five in the morning, claiming our spot to watch the 84th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

The experience had long been a bucket list item for me.  As a kid, long before I had any notion as to what a bucket list was, I always said I wanted to see the parade in person one day.  A year before our Thanksgiving trip to the Big Apple, I sat in my mother's kitchen as she prepared dishes for our Thanksgiving meal.  As usual, we watched the parade and both voiced how we wanted to see it in person one day.  One of us then commented that we had been talking about going to the parade for nearly 20 years and that we needed to finally just do it instead of talking about it.  So, we got my aunt on board, made our plans, and the next year we went.

In my life, I've been quite lucky for I've been able to cross off several Bucket List items.  I've dipped my feet in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  I've snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef.  I've driven the Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West.  But, there has only been one Bucket List item that while I was doing it, evoked such overwhelming feelings of pure awe and joy that I actually teared up and it was seeing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  

And, truth be told, if given the opportunity to go see it again, I would.  Despite the cost, despite the unpredictable weather, despite the mass of humanity one has to deal while in NYC over the Thanksgiving holiday, I would happily go again and here's why:

I Got an Up Close and Personal View of the Balloons
Before I saw the giant balloons in person, I had seen them dozens of times on TV and I knew that they were massive.  I mean, how could they not be given how many balloon handlers it takes to keep the inflatables from floating away?  But, until I stood on the sidewalk and craned my head back to watch them float over me, I had absolutely no idea of how massive they were.  Sadly, my pictures do not do them justice.

The Full Experience
Allow me to use a little analogy.  Bon Jovi is my favorite band and "Livin' on a Prayer" is my favorite song. Throughout my life, I've enjoyed watching the music video of "Livin' on a Prayer."  But, watching that video pales in comparison to the times when I've seen Bon Jovi perform that song in concert.  Why?  Because the live performance stimulated all of my senses and enveloped me in the experience.  It's the same thing with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Whenever I watch the parade on TV, I see the floats and  balloons and I hear the marching bands.  But, that's it.  Whenever I saw it in person, all my senses were stimulated. Not only did I see and hear the marching bands as they marched by me, but I also felt the thump of the drums.  Not only did I see the balloon handlers fight the wind, but I felt the wind on my face.  Not only did I see the celebrity guests and performers, but I saw them interact with real people in the crowd.  It was a more enhanced experience in my opinion.

Being a Part of Such a Uniquely American Tradition
This year, marks the 92nd time that the iconic parade has taken place since it debuted in 1924. The parade wasn't held for several years during WWII due to rubber and helium shortages, so that's why the math doesn't add up.  For me, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was a big part of my childhood.  I have many fond memories of watching it while camped out in front of the TV.  I continued to watch it throughout my teens, through my college years, and into adulthood.  Watching it is still part of my Thanksgiving tradition.  Being among the 3+ million spectators who lined the streets of Manhattan to see the parade allowed me to be a part of it.  Being a part of something that's been around since before my grandparents were born and, more importantly, something that played a big role in childhood was, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, surreal. 

The decision whether or not to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is unique to each individual; one must take several factors into consideration such as cost, tolerance for the elements, and tolerance for humanity (crowds).  It's definitely not something I would recommend for everyone.  Whether or not someone should return to NYC for a repeat parade viewing is also unique to each individual based on the previously named factors and based on the person's previous parade experience.  I, for one, would go back in a heartbeat.  

Have you ever seen the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in person?  What was your experience like?

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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*The parade route no longer goes down 7th Avenue as it did in 2010 when I attended the parade. 
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