Monday, January 30, 2012

Blogger book swap!

In my five-ish years of blogging I have participated in many blogger swaps, organized and hosted by some fabulous ladies, but I have never been so perfectly paired up with someone!

The lovely Heather and Katie, paired myself up with Molly, from Blonde Out Loud. What is so great about these swaps is that I almost always meet someone new. Sometimes it turns out to be a flop and I don't necessarily click with that blogger, but Molly and I totally hit it off! We have so much in common, it's pretty surreal!

Molly and I chatted quite a bit through email and Twitter, and we learned that we're both about the same age, we have several of the same interests and she quickly caught on that my 30th was last week and she went above and beyond to make me feel special.

On top of buying me a book that was on my list of books that I've always wanted, she bought me one of HER favorites (how special?!) along with a postcard and Kate Spade canvas tote bag from.... THE STRAND! 


The Strand is a used bookstore in New York City that has been there since 1927 and has EIGHT MILES of new and used books. Basically, the place sounds like heaven on earth for a bibliophile like me, and I have now added it to my list of "must-see places"!

The books Molly chose for me couldn't have been more perfect! She picked up Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson, which has been recommended by several friends and it's pretty safe to say it is one of James Patterson's more popular novels for women. It will by my first novel by him, and I cannot wait to read it! The second book she chose, is one of Molly's personal favorites, Angels by Marian Keyes. I know this author is a favorite among many readers that enjoy the same books as me, so I'm hoping I can get to it soon... Plus, I just love that it's one of her favorite books. What a sweet surprise!


What's your favorite bookstore? Have you been to any cool ones like The Strand? 

I'd have to say my favorite practical bookstore is Half Price Books here in Des Moines (which is a chain) and then my favorite "fun" bookstore would be The Vault, in Oskaloosa, Iowa. It's an old bank!



Friday, January 27, 2012

Lauren Oliver review - Pandemonium, Delirium, Before I Fall

A couple years ago I won an ARC copy of Lauren Oliver's debut novel, Before I Fall and this is when I fell in love with her style of writing. I'm not talking about Before I Fall today - but just looking at the beautiful cover should make any YA fan interested!

Lauren Oliver writes primarily for the YA audience but also recently released a book for the middle grades called, Liesel & Po. Her style and technique is flawless, and I think she sets such a great example for her audience. Her books have just enough risque, without going over the top.

I knew after finishing Before I Fall, that I would devour her second novel, Delirium. The synopsis totally sucked me in, and I was just dying to get my hands on this book! As soon as it came out the beginning of 2011, I bought it on my Nook (one of the first books I read on it!) and took it in in almost one sitting.

From Goodreads:

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love
.


It's another dystopian - but we aren't sick of them yet, right?? Like The Hunger Games, this novel is about a society that strives to eliminate love. They believe that passion, emotion and falling in love is a sickness that must be cured. Some people fall for the hype and are brainwashed, others rebel and escape to live in the Wilds as Invalids.

I adored Delirium (obviously) and when I saw that the sequel, Pandemonium was on Around the World Tours, I quickly signed up. Several months later, it was finally my turn to read and review!

Now, I'm posting about both books, because I'm not sure who has read Delirium and who hasn't. I'm hesitant to talk too much about the sequel because I don't want to spoil anything! I didn't love the second installment as much as the first, but it was still very, very good. The first half of the book dragged a little, but once it got passed about halfway through, it was obvious that the ground needed to be set to make way for the real action. I'm glad I breezed through it and got to the good stuff because the end was SHOCKING. I did not see it coming.

I will say, if you liked The Hunger Games and you liked Divergent, you will probably like these too. This trilogy (yep, there's going to be a third!) seems to be more for girls, but it has the same major elements as both THG and Divergent. Dystopian, wannabe utopian society. Possible love triangles. Action and adventure. Chaos. Cliffhangers.

Don't miss out on this author - she's fantastic!

Today I've linked up with Heather at Blonde Undercover Blonde for Bookclub Friday!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wine & Love : Subbing, ESL, and too much reading


Today I am participating in Nora's weekly feature, Wine and Love. Each week us bloggers post what we are loving this week and what is making us reach for the wine! 

This weeks loves: 

♥ Getting a subbing job on Wednesday! I did not expect to work, because most school's get out early on Wednesdays and the district I sub most in still pays their subs for a full day even though they're only working half. To get a job on Wednesday usually requires being requested. I have been requested two weeks in a row now! This makes me very, very happy. Double love!

♥ My ESL (English as a second language) classes. I'm taking two this semester. I've only taken one so far since I began working on my education degree and that was back in the summer. The more I learn about this group of students, the more passionate I get. Hence, yesterdays post. ;)

♥ Adding more charms to my Pandora bracelet. My mom got me two more charms for my birthday and I just love them!

♥ Introducing sushi to my dad, and him liking it!! I'm sort of surprised, even though I knew he would like most of it. For the most part, my parents really like the basic rolls and nothing raw, but it's a start!!

♥ Planning vacations! So far this year I am planning a trip to Vegas for Lesli's birthday and a trip to DC to see Becky. I'm SO EXCITED! I've never been to either place!

This weeks wines: 

→  The insane amount of reading for almost every single class this semester. I have no idea how I am going to participate in the three book clubs I am in and keep up on Modern Family, Revenge, The Big Bang Theory, The Middle, The Biggest Loser and The Bachelor.

→ So... I get it. Politics and religion are not well received in these parts. The past two times I have even hinted at the subject it got little to no reaction. Sometimes I think it makes perfect sense that politics and religion are two things people don't really talk about it, and then other times I don't understand why we don't talk about it more, so that we learn. I'm not blogging for comments, so I don't really care, but I'm still putting this as a wine because sometimes I would like to initiate a conversation about these subjects with friends in the blog world, but I understand it's a sensitive subject.

→ The fact that my "fat jeans" are no longer that, and they are actually regularly worn jeans. This is just not okay. I'm only whining about this once though. Time to take action and do something about it.

→  Revenge wasn't new last night. In fact, none of my shows were. I was so looking forward to coming home and watching Revenge... Booooo....

That's it for me! I'm super happy that I had more loves than "wines" this week and the fact that I was really stretching for the "wines"!!

What are you loving this week? What's been the highlight of your week?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Semi-Wordless Wednesday

 
Want to know more about this billboard in Iowa? Read this.
Or, don't read it. Just think about the message.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Na, na, naaa, naaaaa, naaaaaaaaa ...

They say it's you're birrrrrrthday! Na, na, naaaa, naaaaa, naaaaaa, it's my birthday, too!

Wow! Birthdays always make me feel like a celebrity or something because my phone is going off every two seconds with Twitter mentions, people writing on my Facebook wall, texting and/or calling. Seriously. I feel so loved and blessed! Thank you!

Yesterday was wonderful. I am so glad that early in the morning I decided to skip work (ahh, the luxury of making your own schedule...) and I am so glad I did. When my alarm went off at 5am, I looked outside, said "hell no," and turned my alarm off, put my phone on silent (so I wouldn't wake up to the districts calling) and went back to sleep until 8am. It was glorious.

When I got up, I decided to make french toast and I drank my coffee, ate french toast and read blogs in bed. I would be a happy, happy girl if I could start every morning with blog reading but considering I am not a morning person, that is not always possible!

After laying around for awhile, my sister suggested a sushi lunch. You don't have to twist my arm to take me out to sushi, so I immediately said yes and jumped in the shower ready to GO!

We had sushi at Sakari, which is a popular sushi place in Des Moines that didn't make a good first impression on me. My sister loves it, and she said I had to give it another chance. I'm glad I did, but it's definitely no Miyabi 9 or my new favorite, Wasabi 9. It was nice to have some sister and sushi time just the two of us though!

After she left and went to class, I went down the street to my favorite Caribou location to read for history and my reading class. History is definitely awesome so far, I really love it, but it's A LOT of reading. Other than the intense amount of reading, I'm enjoying it. There's something amazing about learning history as an adult. It's just different. My reading class this semester is also turning out to be a good one... So far, I have borderline hated my reading classes and the texts have been awful and horribly dry. This one is completely different and is written sort of like a novel with lots of anecdotal comments. I love it so far!

So, I spent a couple hours at Caribou, reading and drinking coffee. Oh, and also Whatsapp'ing with Lisa and Becky. Love those girls!

After leaving Caribou, I had about an hour at home before I had to leave to go pick up a friend and head to our nightclass. To fill that time I did a little laundry and also was inspired to take a new Goodreads picture....

I'm a nerrrrrd and I know it (to the tune of the LMFAO song...) lol

At 4:45 my friend that has night class on Mondays with me (different class, same times) wanted to stop at Starbucks before. Of course I complied! Then, she bought me a latte and an oatmeal cookie! I wish I had taken a picture. It was so sweet! :)

As we headed to class, we were about 10 minutes early and I poked my head in the room because it looked like the class had already begun. Ummm... that wasn't my class. I was in the wrong BUILDING! This is why I have a planner... I should have USED it. I had written down in there what building I was in and for some reason I was convinced I was in the same building as her. I had to book it across campus in 10 minutes (which required driving, as it was down the street a ways) and just barely made it on time. Luckily, I have great school friends because, they saved me a seat next to them. ;)

After class I went and bought running tights, as I was discussing running the Red Flannel 5K that's coming up in February and I really need some warmer running pants for cold weather running. I'm hoping some new gear will invigorate me and motivate me to get back in gear. It has been exactly 13 days since I last ran. That. is. not. ok. I was doing so good!

Once I got home I made some dinner and sat down to watch some trashy reality tv The Bachelor and read for my social studies methods class.

Overall, such a great day! I've got a great weekend planned with our last 30th birthday in my group of friends to celebrate and some fun plans on Friday!

Hope everyone's week started off great! Thank you for all the birthday wishes. It seriously made my day! :)

Do you have any traditions on your birthday like staying home from work/school or breakfast in bed?

Monday, January 23, 2012

It's A Wild Ride

Thus far I have ...
  • Moved across the country twice - both coasts!
  • Watched my 100 year-old elementary school, where my mom and the rest of my family went, be torn down, and a new building built down the block.
  • Survived a horrible three years in one of the roughest middle schools in my districts.
  • Managed high school without the help of my best friend when she moved away after 9th grade.
  • Achieved some major personal girls in high school, which included making the cheerleading squad (with no gymnastics or dance background) and becoming an editor on my school newspaper.
  • Rebelled against my family and chose to attend Iowa State University instead of University of Iowa, successfully converting several Iowa fans into ISU fans. Go Cyclones!
  • Wrote for my university's newspaper my freshman year, then decided I didn't want to major in journalism anymore and chose the oh-so-practical department of fashion merchandising and design (sarcaaaasm).
  • Joined a sorority, and after living in a house with 52 girls for a year and a half, deactivated.
  • Earned my bachelors degree and moved away from home to a larger midwestern city.
  • Through a sorority sister, I found a very young company that I fell in love with and stayed with for the next five years.
  • Moved back to my hometown temporarily on a pit stop before moving again. This time to South Carolina.
  • After almost a year in South Carolina, I felt the worst kind of homesickness and loneliness. I knew I had to move back home.
  • Quit working for a company that I was head over heels in love with. Luckily, a position opened up again a year later and I began working for them again.
  • Two months after I got my old job back, the company's owner (another huge corporation) announced that they were closing all stores and liquidating.
  • At this time I decided to switch careers. For two years, I worked for another company, but meanwhile was planning how to earn a degree in education to become a teacher.
  • After a horrible Christmas working retail (2010) I quit my job and began graduate school full time
  • I also began substitute teaching at this time, which solidified my choice to pursue a career in education.
  • Today, I am ... happy, energetic, hopeful, wiser, optimistic, realistic, and excited for what the next few years may hold....
  • Today is my 30th birthday, and that? Blows my mind. It feels completely impossible, but I am insanely curious to find out what my thirties has in store for me.
I can chalk this up to these two, simple words.

Time. Flies.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A sizzling love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright

Last year when I saw several of the girls in my group of friends reading Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, I didn't understand the appeal. It's a stuffy old architect from over 100 years ago, right?

Wrong.

In Loving Frank, Nancy Horan creates a historical fiction story about one of Frank Lloyd Wright's long term mistresses, Mamah Cheney. Although the details in the book are made up, the bigger picture is all factual and everything that happened in the book, really happened between 1903 and 1914.

I thought, ok. This sounds good. Maybe someday I will read it, and then I promptly forgot about it.

Then when Lisa suggested touring the Frank Lloyd Wright home in Oak Park, IL while we were all Chicago, she urged me to read Loving Frank. I didn't want to tour his home cold, and know very little about his life, so I checked out the book and planned to begin reading it on the bus to Chicago.

Oh my, am I glad that I did. Not just because I gained some knowledge about Frank Lloyd Wright's family before touring his home, but because it was so interesting and the story was so enthralling. FLW is a very charismatic man that is easy to love and hate at the same time. I commented to the girls once we got to Chicago that I wasn't sure if I liked Frank. Obviously, he's unfaithful to his wife and he's famously carrying on an affair with another married woman, but there are moments in the book where I was literally cheering for Frank and Mamah, wanting them to be together.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current.

So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.

In this ambitious debut novel, fact and fiction blend together brilliantly. While scholars have largely relegated Mamah to a footnote in the life of America’s greatest architect, author Nancy Horan gives full weight to their dramatic love story and illuminates Cheney’s profound influence on Wright.

Drawing on years of research, Horan weaves little-known facts into a compelling narrative, vividly portraying the conflicts and struggles of a woman forced to choose between the roles of mother, wife, lover, and intellectual. Horan’s Mamah is a woman seeking to find her own place, her own creative calling in the world. Mamah’s is an unforgettable journey marked by choices that reshape her notions of love and responsibility, leading inexorably ultimately lead to this novel’s stunning conclusion.

The end of this book had a twist so shocking and out of nowhere that it left me stunned and heartbroken. Since finishing this book, I have not been able to stop thinking about it and have already recommended it to several people.

You want to know the twist right? I'm telling you, you will fly through this book just to get to this twist!


While in Chicago I was really looking forward to touring FLW's home. His home, which he built for his wife and children to live in is nestled in an Oak Park neighborhood, surrounded by old Victorian homes. It's kind of funny to see, because there are all these homes that look very similar and then sitting on the corner is a FLW home, that is so clearly not like the others.

The tour took about an hour and we toured his family room, dining room, children's bedrooms and playrooms, FLW and his wife's bedroom and his studio. The guide was fantastic and she was so clearly well-educated on his life and career. She had many anecdotal stories and comments about each room. It made the tour so much fun!



Today I am linking up with Blonde Undercover Blonde for her Friday Book Club - stop by and check it out! I'm always interested in seeing what everybody else is reading.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blog friends are simply, friends.


At some point my "blogger friends" have turned into "friends" and, you know what? That's what they are! Sometimes I still slip and say "blogger friends" but that really is an insult, because they are so much more than that.

I may not have met some of these girls in person, but that doesn't make us fake friends. I count people like Nora, Mandy and Stephany as friends that I know someday I will meet and share coffee and conversation with!

This past weekend I traveled via Megabus (review coming soon) to Chicago and finally spent some quality time with one of my favorite bloggers - Becky!

Lisa, Becky, Lesli and I all met in Chicago for a weekend getaway consisting of eating, talking, reading and exploring a fabulous city in the midwest! Lesli also brought a friend, whom I have met on a couple occasions, who was absolutely lovely! Meeting friends in person for the first time, plus making a new lifelong friend? Amazing! Couldn't ask for more.

This weekend really couldn't have been more lovely. We ate lots of yummy food, which included Italian, Mexican twice, and Thai. We watched the Globes together and gave each other manicures. We toured the Frank Lloyd Wright home in Oak Park (I will review that in a separate post - watch for it!). And we spent one afternoon just relaxing, reading and chatting at a downtown Barnes & Noble. Overall, time went way too fast and by the time Monday rolled around, I was in awe.

Now that I have been on two of these "blogger weekends" I am so hooked and am counting down the days when I can see these ladies again and also spend another weekend with bloggers. Hopefully I can make something happen a couple more times this year.

Do you tend to call your online friends "Twitter friends" or "blogging friends"? Or are they simply friends to you?

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's my blog and I'll blog about what I want to!

Classes start tomorrow and I have to admit, I'm excited.

I really, really enjoy being in the classroom and it doesn't matter if I am the student or teacher. Either one suits me just fine, and in the past year I have figured out, that it is one of the places I am most happy.

We have had a full month off for the holidays at my university, which is a week longer than most. It's been great, but I'm ready to get back into my regular routine of substitute teaching and attending classes.

When I first started writing this blog post, I thought, why would I talk about the classes I'm taking? Nobody wants to hear about that, but you know what? It's boring. But, it's my blog, and I want to write about it! Maybe some of you won't find it so boring!

This semester I am taking SIX classes. This is only slightly insane for graduate school.

Ok. It IS insane. I don't have much of a choice though.

My program isn't a traditional MBA or other graduate program though. It's basically a teacher prep program with a graduate student component thrown in. We do the same work as the undergraduates do, but we have something extra do during the semester, which is usually research. I've mentioned this before, but I LOVE research. I love searching for articles and analyzing the data. Which, makes me seriously considering working on a PhD someday. That's a post for another day, though.

This semester I'm taking quite the mixed bag... Since I am working on four endorsements, I always end up focusing mostly on one each semester. This semester it's ESL (English as a Second Language) and a couple of middle school classes and reading classes. I'm loading up on as many endorsements as possible, in hopes that I will be more marketable when I finish and begin looking for a permanent position.

So, the classes.

1. American History - Yes, I'm taking an American History class and I AM SO EXCITED about this one, I'm probably the most excited about this one, but also nervous because I'm sure it will be a lot of reading. This class will contribute towards my middle school endorsement. The MS endorsement is all content area classes, and I'm looking forward to it because they're basically electives to me! Most of the endorsement is already satisfied with undergraduate work (which is great for the pocketbook) but I think I will have to take about 4 classes to earn this endorsement.

2. ESL Methods - In this class we will learn how to teach ELL students, I'm pretty sure this requires time in the classroom as well, which is great!

3. Science Methods - Like the PE Methods class I took last semester, this class teaches us how to teach science! All of the methods classes require so many hours in the classroom (usually 10)

4. Social Studies Methods - Just like ESL and Science, we learn how to teach Social Studies! This is one of my favorite subjects, so I can't wait to get my hands on some content!

5. Issues and Assessment in English Language Learners - I'm not sure what this class entails quite yet, but it's taught by my advisor and I really like her! She was an ESL teacher at my middle school growing up - but of course I didn't know her because I wasn't an ESL student. ;)

6. Literacy Assessment and Instruction 2 - I took the first class in this series of classes for my reading endorsement in the fall and enjoyed it. It was mainly a class that taught the many different assessments for reading in elementary aged students. I wish I could say I enjoy the classes for my reading endorsement, but I really don't. I find them rather boring. I hope they get interesting soon...

Fun fact: in Iowa, the reading endorsement is what the ESL endorsement is to states like Texas and California. With this combination of endorsements I'm pretty sure I could teach anywhere in the US. Although I do not plan on moving out of Iowa, you really never know.

Did you make it through all of that? Really? You rock.

For those of you off today, I hope you take a moment to think about the significance of this holiday. For those of you not off today, I hope you also take a moment.

If you could take any class on any subject, what would you take? What was your favorite subject to study in school?

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Love Affair: Amber and Miss Oakley

Hello friends! I'm currently on my way to Chicago, IL for an extended girls weekend with several of my favorite bloggers. I'm sure by now you've noticed, I'm excited. :)

I didn't want to leave you all hanging, so I asked my good friend, Miss Oakley, to write a guest post for me. You're in for a treat. For real. She's one of the funniest people I know. If she wasn't studying to be a therapist, I'm sure she'd make a living as a comedian. Enjoy!

See you all Tuesday!


Dear Readers,


Hi. I am not Amber. My name is Miss Oakley and I have a “blog” over at Observations by Miss Oakley. It’s not really a blog, but more of a travesty spinning slowly out of control. It’s a mess. There’s no focus and many times I choose to share stories of how super awkward I am. For reasons unknown, Amber asked if I’d do a guest blog post. And, most alarmingly, she said I could blog about “Anything”. And she meant it. She gave me the Serious-Amber face when she said it. (Serious-Amber face is much different than Smiley-Amber face…I don’t have photographic evidence of this, but just trust me…She wasn’t messing around.) I took her up on her offer. Why not? Worst thing that could happen would be: an over-a-decade long friendship ruined.


No big deal.


I'm going to cross my fingers and hope we remain friends afterwards.


Why I'd Like To Remain Friends:

We've known each other for over a decade.

We have pretty much the same friends.

We both attend the same Grad school.

I like her family.

I like her.

I like her pets.

She smells good. (Creepy and an actual fact.)



Our Friendship Explained:

Amber and I have been friends for a long time. So long in fact, that I think she deserves a medal or a trophy. At least a certificate of some sort.


We met in college. To the surprise of Everyone, I was a Resident Assistant (RA) in college. Some of her friends lived on my floor. So like most friendships, we met through our friends. And we’ve been friends ever since.


I wanted to share some stories. But when I started thinking of stories…I realized we’ve done A LOT together and it would take me a year to write about our activities. So I had to narrow my focus. And I came up with three of what I feel are solid Amber-Miss Oakley stories. I would like to share these stories with you, dear readers.


Consider it a gift.


Stories I Would Like To Share Today:

1. My First Day of Grad School.

2. Why Amber Doesn’t Like To Bunk Up With Me.

3. A Recent Trip to Costco.


My First Day of Grad School:

In order to do this story justice...I must give you some back information. We separately decided to completely change our career track and go to Grad school. Both for things totally different than what we originally went to college for. I have a degree in Marketing and have spent years in sales: Business to Business, Pharmaceutical Sales, and Medical Device Consulting. And now I’m getting a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling. Totally makes sense.


At any rate, it’s been nice having a close friend going back to school at the same time. Plus she went first, so she’s been able to show me the ropes…


And here is where the story starts.


My First Day of Class:

Amber took me to my first day of class. I was nervous. It felt like that feeling you get when you go on a blind date, Combined with that feeling of awkwardness you have in Junior High, and Heartburn (from the pizza I ate earlier). On the drive there I asked her if she thought the other kids would like me. I wish I was kidding about that last sentence but I’m not. I had a legitimate concern that it was a possibility that no one would like me. I then proceed to ask her a series of questions that you can only ask a really close friend. Questions such as: “Is my outfit ok?” “Do you think there will be snacks??” “Do I have any boogers??” were asked. Luckily (for her) it’s a pretty short drive. She only had to endure about fifteen minutes of this. We get to school and as Amber goes to park the car she gave me the mom talk: You know that talk that you get from your mom about being nice to others and sharing? It was basically an updated grown up version of that talk. Also, she told me not to forget my backpack.


Mind you: The entire time she is laughing at me. She already had her first day and wasn’t nervous and asking borderline ridiculous questions like I was. Naturally, she wanted to take a picture to document this momentous occasion. I wouldn't let her. Not because I didn't want photographic evidence of my first day...but I didn't want any of the other "kids" to see me. It was a special moment that you can only have with your Mom…or Amber.


Why Amber Doesn't Like To Bunk Up With Me:

Amber and I have traveled quite a bit with each other. Last year we drove to Canada. Because we could. The past couple of summers we went boating a TON. A couple of our friends have lake houses. And we like all things to do with summer and fun. So…we often frequented said friends lake houses.


And like all houses...Lake houses have a limited number of rooms. Somehow, Amber and I always ended up sharing a room. I think it might be the fact that pretty much everyone else was sharing a room with their significant other.


At any rate, Amber does not like to share a bed with me. I do a lot of thrashing. And gas passing. And I can’t sleep, so I’m always up with the light on reading. Oh, and I hog the bed. And apparently like to sleep horizontally. I have no idea why she doesn’t appreciate me bunking up with her.


A Recent Trip To Costco:

A couple weeks ago we found ourselves at Costco. We’re American….and we like to buy in bulk. Especially when it comes to toilet paper.


It’s ok to run out of canned corn. But NOT toilet paper.


TP is something that you legitimately need to stock up on. For those of you not familiar with this “Costco” I speak of: It’s basically Wal-mart on steroids. If Wal-mart had a big brother: Costco would be it. Also, you can get everything there. Literally. Which is why we chose to buy a huge 40 roll jumbo pack of TP. When we got out to the car we split the pack...in the parking lot.


In summary, we're the kind of friends that go to Costco together and split a jumbo pack of toilet paper together. If that doesn't say "friendship", I don't know what does.


Thank You For Reading About Our Love Affair,

Miss Oakley


**If I still haven't totally scared you, you can check out my blog over at Observations by Miss Oakley. Also, I'm on the twitter. You can find me @MissOakley

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stay by Allie Larkin


Recently Becky was raving about a book called Stay, when one of my friends raves about a book I almost immediately add it to my TBR pile - which is virtual, btw. Are you on Goodreads? (If you're not and you're a reader, you're seriously missing out).

When I first read the synopsis, I thought, "Anoooooother dog book?!"

Not that I am not a dog person. Or not an animal person in general. I am! My sister is studying to be a vet tech - with aspirations of becoming an actual veterinarian someday. My aunt takes in abandoned dogs and rescues dogs sentenced to be euthanized. We currently have five pets. FIVE. Which? Is why I call it The Animal Kingdom. I cannot remember a time when I did not have a pet.

Long story short. I'm an animal lover.

But the books? They make me cry. The Sarah McLaughlin commercials? They make me cry. Anything about animals doing extraordinary things? They make me CRY!

Stay wasn't just about the dog though. It was about so much more! Somewhere I read it described as Something Borrowed meets the movie, Must Love Dogs - which is COMPLETELY accurate!

In Stay the main character is in love with her best friend, who at the beginning of the book marries her other best friend. (See? Something Borrowed!)

To comfort herself and take her mind off her two best friends honeymooning together, she buys a $6,000 German Shephard from Slovakia off the Internet. If you're wondering if she was under the influence of alcohol, you would probably be correct...

Before I give anything else away, I will stop. I will say that I absolutely loved this book and flew through it. It was a light, fun read and definitely what I needed after the heavy topics I have been tackling lately (The Book Thief, The Invisible Bridge, State of Wonder...). If you're not a fan of chick lit, don't shy away from this book. I wouldn't classify it as chick lit at all. The main character is smart, honest and hilarious, my only problem with her is I wanted her to stand up for herself more - but that's easier said than done for us all, right?!

Do yourself a favor and put this one on hold at the library or buy it soon. You won't regret it! I borrowed it from the library and got it right away!

Are you a fan of chick lit? Do make sure to alternate genres or do you read the same genre all the time?

Tales from The Windy City

Tomorrow I am off to Chicago, and I couldn't be more excited!

Living in Des Moines, we are very spoiled. We're perfectly centered around four major cities, one of them being one of the biggest cities in the world! DSM is about five hours west of Chicago, three hours north of Kansas City, two hours east of Omaha and four hours south of Minneapolis. This makes it so easy to get to things that we couldn't normally get to at home. I love it!

Growing up my family was not a "let's go the big city for vacation!" type people, we were more of the "let's go to the mountains and camp!" type of people. Both of my parents were raised in the midwest and almost as soon as they possibly could, they skipped town and headed west. Both ended up in Spokane, WA (heeelllo, mountains!) and then I magically appeared. Yes, magically. (ew, guys!)

So, that is the long winded way to say that growing up I did not visit Chicago once, even though we were SO CLOSE. Not once. The first time I visited Chicago was when I was 19 and freshly finished with my freshman year of college. That was when I met all of my best girlfriends that are still my girlfriends today. We were bored one summer, so, we decided to take a road trip to The Windy City!
{Us taking a break from shopping on Michigan for a quick photo opp with Abe.}

None of us were 21 and we hit some speed bumps upon arriving to Chicago and our pre-booked hotel. The very stoic hotel hostess (is that what they're called?) refused, absolutely REFUSED, to let us stay there because we were too young.

What?

We looked at each other and didn't really know what to do. Chicago, you weren't impressing me.

Luckily, we found another hotel that gladly accepted the four of us (and our money) and we were no longer homeless in the big city. After that, we shopped. And ate. Then shopped some more. And I bought fake hair. Remember the fake hair craze? No, not extensions. The clip in kind. I kind of went gaga over that.

See?
{This is a picture of a picture - excuse the flash! ;)}

I loved that thing. I wore it till it was too frizzy to wear anymore. One guy I was dating even thought it was real. (seriously?)

I did not correct him. (teehee)

Fast forward about three years later and I am graduating college and I've accepted a job with a company that had headquarters in Chicago. Each year we would have annual meetings there called The Princess Ball. Yep, you read right. An annual meeting with the entire company (probably about 150 people) called The Princess Ball. You know I was all over that.

The Princess Ball, was basically a week's worth of meetings, but one night we had dinner and an actual BALL. Yes, a ball. We dressed up and watched our colleagues get drunk. It was greeaaaat! I can safely say that I was NOT one of those colleagues. I enjoyed watching them!


In all fun, we were a great group and I miss them all very much!

{We always had the event at the same hotel, the Knickerbocker, and that light up dancefloor was enough to get everyone dancing - even me! }

Since that company closed, I have not been to Chicago. In fact, I was trying to remember the last time I was there and it was over five years ago!

Unacceptable!

Here's the last time I was there... five years ago and many different shades of hair color ago...

{That's me in the middle with the brown hair and being very theatrical... I cant tell I was about to laugh, if the picture would have clicked half a second later, I'm positive I would have been laughing. ;)}

So, on top of being excited to see some of best bloggers-turned-girlfriends, I get to visit a city that I really enjoy and has sentimental meaning to me!

Tomorrow, I will have a guest post from one of my very best friends, Miss Oakley! She's an IRL friend turned blogger and she couldn't be funnier! You all are really in for a treat, so make sure not to miss it. She is HILARIOUS! If you'd like to check out her blog, visit her at Observations of Miss Oakley!

What's your favorite city to visit? Have you ever been to Chicago?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What I'm Loving Wednesday!

It's been a long time since I have linked up with Jamie at This Kind of Love!


She has been hosting this sweet feature for ... couple years now? Maybe that's wrong, it's been more than a year though! She's the sweetest blogger, and one of my favorite southern girls!

Here's what I am loving this week...

I am loving ... that I get to see Lisa, Becky, Lesli and Nora in TWO SLEEPS! I am need of some girl time with some of my favorite bloggers turned friends! I love having something to look forward to (maybe that's why I am such a planner?).

I am loving ... that my bus ticket only cost $2! Thank you MegaBus! I booked my ticket as soon as the dates were available and I got the cheapest possible ticket. If I had driven it would have cost me 120 times that... after parking in downtown in Chicago and the gas to get me there. No. Just no. I'll sit on a bus and happily read until we get to Chicago. ;)

I am loving ... this adorable dress from Ruche! I just need somewhere to wear it...

I am loving ... these apple cider k-cups. I was looking for a new tea to buy, but instead found these and after Shoshanah blogged about how much she liked, I figured I would give it a try. I'm glad I did!
I am loving ... that I finally got back in the classroom this week. It was definitely a welcomed return for me!

I am loving ... this adorable shirt from Etsy that Becky told me about. I think I need it! Also... my birthday is in 12 days. Just saying....

I am loving ... classes start in less than a week! I'm ready for my "normal" schedule to come back. This laying around stuff is getting BORING!

I am loving ... all of the new bloggers I have discovered lately! The blogging world is so big, yet so small at the same time. I just love all the new ladies I have discovered in the past few months. :)

What are you loving this week??

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sneak a peek inside my medicine cabinet!

Everyone loves snooping through someone else's medicine cabinet, right? Don't lie... we all do it! Or, want to do it... It's okay!

Ok. So, no, it's not okay, but it still gave me a good idea for a post!

I love those posts where bloggers share the contents of their purse or refrigerator, what's on their nightstand or bookshelf or even what's in their car! I'm just nosy like that.

So, today I thought I would share what is in my medicine cabinet. I don't really use my medicine cabinet for medicine. It's full of products. Hair products, makeup products, skin products... I love it all!

This post sort of got out of hand as I started writing out all the products I own. So, if you make it through all of this, you probably deserve a medal or something. Let me know if you made it. I will get your medal right out to you... ;)

I think I'm good for at least the next year and shouldn't need to buy ANYTHING for a long time. Please tell me I'm not alone...


{Excuse the blurriness. I was trying to make it big enough so you all could see what I was talking about}


I was going to put numbers in there, but I think it's too small.

Starting on the top shelf from the left:


1. That gold bottle is spray on hose. No, I'm not kidding. I stole it from sister and I love it. I only use it in the summer, and it gives my legs that extra tan and they match my arms. My legs never seem to get any sun!

2. Redken Guts. This stuff has been my go-to root lifter for a few years now. It's easy to apply and the bottle tends to last me a long time. Love this stuff!


3. John Frieda Luxurious Volume hair spray. I'm a big fan of the John Frieda line. Their blonde shampoos and conditioners are amazing for blondies like me. Every time I use it, people ask me if I had just gotten my hair done. It brightens it up that much!


4. That little silver bottle behind the white bottle? Kenra silkening gloss. This stuff is amazing and smells heavenly! Another product that I have been attached to for a few years now.


5. The white bottle is a new heat protectant I am trying from Fantastic Sam's. It's a knock off of It's a 10 Leave In Conditioner, and I use it to protect my hair from the heat I subject it to on an almost daily basis. So far I like it. I'm not raving about it like the stylist at Fantastic Sam's was, but I like it. (btw, I get my hair cut at Fantastic Sam's and colored at Regis. My hair is long so it's just a trim, and I hate paying over $15 for a cut - I'm cheap like that).


6. Jergen's self tanner. This stuff stinks, like literally, it smells bad. But, it's that or cancer so I only use it twice a week at night. Otherwise I'm pasty white and I can't have that either.


7. That little stack has three products. (do you see a problem here? I do.) The top bottle is Redken Aerate, which is a creme mousse that gives my hair awesome body. The second one is Bed Head Manipulator which I use for my hair when I curl it. The third one is Kenra texturizing taffy, which I also use when I curl it.


8. That white bottle is lotion. Pretty sure it's just St. Ives extra dry skin stuff. In the winter I practically need to bathe in lotion otherwise my skin is so dry and scaly. Not pretty!


9. Cetaphil moisturizing cream. This stuff saves my skin every winter. I use it before bed and I swear it helps ward off breakouts.


10. Box of bobby pins (thank you Club Libby Lu for the lifetime supply of bobby pins).


11. Contact solution



OK, now we can move onto the bottom shelf! From the left again:



1. Clearasil foaming cleanser and Clearasil astringent. I use both of these nightly and swear by them.

2. The black case is my eyeglasses, which I only wear at night!


3.
I cannot figure out what purple bottle is for the life of me. It's not there now (I took the picture a few days before writing this post). It's a mystery!

4. Generic brand of Oil of Olay facial moisturizer. This is the moisturizer I use in the mornings!


5. Lovespell body spray - I have loved this scent since I was in college! I don't care what anyone thinks, I've always loved this one. :)


6. A glass of shells. Yes, a glass of shells from the beach. Why you ask? My sister brought them back for me from Cancun, to decorate with (my bathroom is in a beach theme) and I just haven't gotten around to it. They've been sitting in here ever since...


7. Tums. Totally necessary sometimes!


8. Heavenly from Victoria's Secret. I hate that this is "America's #1 scent" because I just love it so much! I don't like smelling like half the women in America so I don't wear it very often anymore. :/

9. Small bottle of Sweet Pea lotion from BABW


10. Toothbrush holder. I have to keep it enclosed somewhere because I have this weird fear that germs will be all over my toothbrush if I don't...

11. Toothpaste! I love that Vivid White kind!

12. Deodorant. I'm not loyal to a certain brand. I'm not a super sweaty person, so usually any kind works for me. Although, recently I bought a "natural" deodorant that didn't have aluminum in it and ... it's not working out so well.

13. Unconditional Love perfume by Philosophy. I got this for Christmas and I just love the scent, but it doesn't seem to last all day.


14. Acne medication. I coat this stuff on when I really need it, and then just use a small layer on trouble areas before bed at night. I also credit this routine to keeping my face clear.


Whew! I cannot believe how much crap I have crammed into this small cupboard! I only told you about the stuff you can see, there's more behind it all! Clearly I need to learn to simplify when it comes to products!

Really though, I blame my mom, (hi, Mom!) she's an extreme salon product advocate and always has something new. ALWAYS. She's always giving me new stuff to try (which, I'm totally grateful for. Please, don't stop) and get addicted to. Her favorite line? Kenra products. My favorite line is probably Redken products, with Kenra in a close second. I don't like Redken's shampoos and conditioners though. I tend to switch up my shampoos and conditioners quite a bit, but I always use salon (except for John Frieda, which I get at Target).


So, what is in your medicine cabinet? What are your must have products that you use daily? Do you splurge on salon products?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

December Books 'n Bars @ Rock Bottom Brewery

I forgot to recap December's Books 'n Bars! It hit me yesterday while running that I forgot, I can't believe I did that.

Oh, well. Better later than never, I say!

The Wednesday after Christmas we met at Rock Bottom Brewery, which is a chain restaurant that brews it's own beers. There are 35 restaurants located in the US and each one brews different beers. I love brewery's like this, but haven't visited Rock Bottom that much, so I was excited when it was suggested. (Also? I really like beer. It's kind of ridiculous).


I was first introduced to breweries like this when I lived in Kansas City. We would would go to McCoy's in Westport all the time and I fell in love with their raspberry brew. Now, I cannot get enough of it, and I can never seem to find it! I think Court Avenue Brewery (for you locals) downtown has it sometimes, but not all the time.

So, enough about beer and the "bars" part, let's talk about the "books" part, shall we?

In December we chose to read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This book had been sitting on my shelf unread for quite a while now, so I was excited that we chose to read it. Unfortunately, I did not manage my time well in December and on the day we were scheduled to meet, I still had 250 pages to go...

Luckily, I did it. Yes, I skimmed quite a bit, but I don't feel like I missed anything! I had a little time before meeting to scan some reviews and summaries online, and from what I can tell I didn't miss anything.

Everyone in the group enjoyed it, a few of us weren't finished (hello, December is BUSY!) so we didn't discuss too much.

What we did discuss was the unique aspects from this WWII book we did enjoy. First of all, it's narrated by Death. I had to remind myself several times that it's not the main character talking, it's Death talking!

I also wasn't prepared for the main character to be a young German girl. I just naturally assumed it would be a Jewish protagonist. I began to adore her though, and really wanted to just hug her so many times. It's so easy to assume that during WWII all German's were bad (obviously a vast generalization), but it is so shocking to me how little they knew. How many lies they were told. It's heartbreaking.

Overall, this is definitely a book I recommend, not only for the content, but for the unique perspective and the unique way it is written!

For January we are switching gears a little and reading some non-fiction to appeal to some of the male members of the group (hi, guys!) and attract more members! C'mon guys, don't you want to be in a book club?! (lol)

So, we are reading Packing for Mars by Mary Roach and we're meeting on Tuesday, January 31st at Raccoon River Brewing Co. (another brewery - I am a happy girl!). Check out the event page here! If you're in the area, I hope you consider joining us!

Happy Reading!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Today I'm linking up with Blonde, Undercover Blonde for her Book Club Friday - you know I'm all over this link up!

I recently finished The Marriage Plot, which is the third novel for Jeffrey Eugenides and the second novel I have read by him. His second book, Middlesex, earned a Pulitzer and was also the book we read for our local book club, Books 'n Bars in November. His first book was The Virgin Suicides, which I own, but haven't read. Did anybody see the movie? I remember watching it in high school and being very disturbed by it...



I probably would not have picked this book up if we weren't reading it for #twookclub, which is this awesome book club on Twitter hosted by the adorable Stephany over at Stephany Writes!

Although I didn't love the book, I'm glad I finished it because I think it will create great discussion among the group. The many issues addressed are marriage, homosexuality (slightly) mental illness, what is normal in life...

The Marriage Plot follows three main characters, college students Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell in the early 80s, at the beginning of the book they are all graduating from college and are embarking on possibly the rest of their lives. All three of them unsure, all three of them struggling to figure out what they're supposed to be doing. Sound familiar? On this premise alone, I wanted to like this book. When I graduated from college I did not adjust well, so I'm always curious how other people attempt this weird transition in life.

So far, how I feel about Middlesex is exactly how I feel about The Marriage Plot. I love Eugenides writing and how he weaves a story together, but I tend to hate the stories he tells. So... it's tough. His writing is just beautiful, and I don't think I have ever come across a storyteller quite like him, I just don't seem to care for the content!

I don't want to go any further because I don't want to discourage anyone from reading this book. I can see how some will love it and some will hate it. Now, go read it! ;)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Learning to say no.

Last summer I took a part-time job at a local non-profit agency that serves adults with intellectual disabilities. Technically my title is "Residential Counselor" but I'm often referred to as "Staff." For example, "Amber is so-and-so's staff." Technically I provide in home care for these clients and help them work towards their "life goals." Their life goals is one of my favorite parts of the job and I love helping them work towards them. Common examples of life goals are cooking goals, exercise goals and budgeting goals.


If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I have been working with the same client (whom I call C) at the non-profit agency. When I first accepted the position, I specified that I wanted to be on-call staff only, because knowing my schedule changes every four months, I didn’t want clients to get attached and not work with other staff and I also didn't want to have to worry about rearranging my schedule as well as theirs multiple times throughout the year. Somehow I ended up working regularly with C, and although I love working with her, my worst fear has come true.


I ended up working regularly with C because her schedule worked well with mine, I knew her already because one of my best friends worked with her for a year and I knew she would be fun to work with. She’s very high functioning and really does not need a lot of help. Each week we do pretty much the same things. We go to the YMCA and work out (she walks, I run), we go to the library (she's working on her computer skills), we go to Friendship Class (which is basically Bible study), and we go do other normal everyday things like grocery shop or go rent movies.


Now that spring semester is about to begin my schedule is changing again, and I am working one less day with C. I really didn’t think she would mind that much. Sometimes she appears to be so annoyed with me that I thought she would welcome some new staff.


Apparently that is not the case.


I was chatting with another counselor and she was saying how one day she showed up to work with C, and C had left a note saying she didn’t need staff today. Then on another occasion she was scheduled to work C, she decided to call and double check that C was home before driving out to her place. C answered the phone and said that “Amber was coming and that she didn’t want any other staff.”


I wasn’t working that day.


Oy.


I’m touched and really very shocked, but I’m not sure where to go with it. Yesterday I mentioned again that I will not be able to work with her on Mondays and that she will have some new staff on Mondays. I suppose I will have to keep mentioning it and keep asking how things went with the other staff.


This is very surprising, because although I hate to admit this, sometimes I feel like I get a little mean with C. She needs tough love, and I worry that I get too blunt with her. I suppose tough love is subjective and my idea of being blunt is very different from someone else’s. I guess I’m not being mean if she wants me around!


This is exactly what I didn’t want, because although it is very touching, it’s heartbreaking and it makes me want to work with her, even though I am already spread too thin right now. She's having a meeting with other members on her team and I hope we can get some things resolved because she's frustrating a lot of people around her!


Just another example of where I need to learn how to say “no.” As much as I enjoy working with her regularly, I had a feeling this would not end well. I'm confident that we can get this resolved, but I'm worried things will have to get worse before they get better. Don't ya hate that?


Is there an area of your life where you struggle with saying no? For me, it is most definitely work. Always has been!