Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Five Things I Am Doing on Valentine's Day


On Monday, I published a piece titled, "Three Things I'm Not Doing on Valentine's Day."  Because I believe in balance, I decided to share some of the things I will be doing today.  Here we go, in no particular order:


SENDING VALENTINES TO MY GRANDMOTHER, MOTHER, AUNT, AND BEST FRIEND

Although I've disliked sharing my birthday with the second most commercialize holiday for the majority of my life, there was a time in fact that I actually enjoyed it - in elementary school.  I have very fond memories of the valentine exchange, from selecting and filling out my valentines to crafting my "mailbox" out of a shoebox and construction paper to opening the valentines I received from classmates.  So, in the spirit of those early valentine exchanges, I'm sending cards to four of the most influential women in my life, women who have loved me unconditionally and been my biggest cheerleaders throughout my life, women whom I love dearly.  Once you strip away all the fluff of this commercialized holiday, isn't love supposed to be what today is about?   I never take for granted the opportunity to tell these women that I love them, but it never hurts to say it extra.

TAKING THE DAY OFF

This really has nothing to do with Valentine's Day, but since I share my birthday with it, it's hard to separate the two.  

A few years ago, I took my birthday off, making the already long Presidents Day weekend a little longer so that my husband and I could head south for a much needed winter escape.  Before that, I had always worked on my birthday.  I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to take the day off for my birthday every year, even if I had no travel plans for that day. This year, I'm getting a massage.

ENJOYING LUNCH WITH MY HUSBAND

I may not be able to eat dinner out this evening without enduring the crowds and long wait times, but I can go out to  lunch.  Given that I work in a public school system, where lunch is a rushed 20-25 minutes and usually consists of a salad or a microwaved Lean Cuisine, going out for lunch is a rare treat.   

INDULGING IN A DECADENT RED VELVET CUPCAKE

As I mentioned Monday, I don't partake in any Valentine candy because the calories simply aren't worth it. If I'm going to consume something sugary, I want to make sure its worth my while.  The red velvet cupcakes from Gigi's are definitely worth it!

REMEMBERING AND THANKING MY LUCKY STARS

This, like taking the day off, is something I do more for my birthday than for Valentine's Day.  

I just finished my 44th trip around the sun.  I have several school and classmates who will never make it to this milestone.   About six or seven years ago, I started this simple tradition - to remember those who have gone before me on my birthday.  I remember friends from school whose lives were cut short as well as family members who have already passed and I do so with a grateful heart, grateful that I've been blessed with as many years as I have.  Tomorrow is never a guarantee nor is making it to the next birthday.


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I hope this finds you doing well and enjoying today regardless if you celebrate Valentine's Day or not. Happy Wednesday to you!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Recently Read - Vol. 25 (Jan. '18)


It's the second Tuesday of the month, so you know what that means!  It's the Show Us Your Books link up day with Jana and Steph!  Here are the books that I listened to and read in January:

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Read Jan. 1 - 20 | Format: Audiobook | My rating: 4.5/5

Think:  A cute story of boy meets girl, but boy just happens to be a prince.

When Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement back in 2010, I wondered what dating the future king of England would be like.  I mean, it couldn't be a conventional courtship.  In the months leading up to their fairy-tale wedding, I often wondered what hoops Kate had to jump through as she prepared to become a royal.  Well, although this book is a work of fiction, I have a feeling that some of the events depicted in the book might have a lot of truth to them.

It was a cute and entertaining read.  My only compliant is that it was a bit too long.  I felt as if some parts could've been condensed and nothing from the storyline would have been lost.

FINAL VERDICT: Recommend

Read Jan. 21 - February 2 | Format: Audiobook | My rating: 4.5/5

Think: Story of a community where everyone plays by the rules and how they react when two newcomers do not.

I thoroughly enjoy Ng's writing style and how she can weave characters and story lines together so intricately. I also like the way she reveals her characters and their personalities. At the end of this book, just like with Everything I Never Told You, I felt as if I had spent some time with these people. That is a rare thing for me to experience.  This book would have received a rating of 5 from me, but I had some issues with the ending.  

FINAL VERDICT: Highly recommend


Master of the Mountain by Cherise Sinclair
Read Jan. 22 - 25 | Format: Kindle | My rating: 3 | Re-read*

Think:  Smut.

As I've mentioned before, I occasionally get a hankering for a hardcore romance that includes bad boys who ride Harleys or men who wear kilts. Every now and then, I venture out of my comfort zone and indulge in a hardcore romance that involves a D/s relationship (dominant and submissive). Regardless of the specific subgenre of the book, I like Alpha males and the gentleman in Master of the Mountain does not disappoint.  Sinclair's writing is basic, the plot is descent, but her sex scenes are steamy.

FINAL VERDICT:  Coin toss. If you're into this genre of romance novels, then give it a try.  Just remember that this book deals with BDSM and contains many graphic, sexual descriptions which may not appeal to you.


Simon Says: Mine by Cherise Sinclair
Read January 25 - 27 | Format: Kindle | My rating: 3/5

Think: More smut.

This is a novella that features one of the minor characters introduced in the preceding book, Master of the Mountain.  It's short, to the point, and doesn't take very long to get to the "action," if you catch my drift.  Something I like about the author is her inclusion of non-perfect women.  In this book, the leading lady is a recently divorced, older woman who grown kids.  Having gone through pregnancies and being in her 40s, her body is imperfect.  The leading man, Simon, is an older gentleman as well who is graying at the temples.  I liked their imperfections and found that it made them more interesting. 

FINAL VERDICT: Coin toss. If you're into this genre of romance novels, then give it a try.  Just remember that this book deals with BDSM and contains many graphic, sexual descriptions which may not appeal to you.

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CURRENTLY: I'm listening to The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware and reading Master of the Abyss by Cherise Sinclair.

What have you read lately?  Anything that you'd recommend?  

Linking up with:

Monday, February 12, 2018

Three Things I'm Not Doing on Valentine's Day


On the off chance that you don't know, Wednesday is Valentine's Day. I personally have no idea how this could escape anyone's attention, because we Americans have been inundated with consistent blatant and subliminal Valentine's Day advertising since the Christmas items were relegated to the clearance aisle.  For the past month and a half, stores have been decked out in red and pink and have been full of humongous teddy bears, boxes of chocolate, cards, and other miscellaneous trinkets that proclaim love and devotion. Television and radio have flooded the airwaves with ads about jewelry. Everywhere we look, cupid is in our faces.


As you've probably guessed, I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day.  My best friend, who has known me since we were kids, says that I was anti-Valentine's Day before being anti-Valentine's Day was trendy. Now, that's not to say that I'm anti-love, because I'm not.  I believe in love and I believe in the power of love.  I honestly think we need more love in the world.  But, there's something about the saccharine, artificiality of Valentine's Day that just rubs me the wrong way. Not to mention that I share my birthday with this loathsome holiday.  Yes, I am a Valentine's baby.  GAG!  Let me go on record and say that sharing your birthday with the second most commercialized holiday sucks.  Oh, trust me, I could write an entirely different post on that topic, but I digress.  

If you're curious as to why I dislike Valentine's Day, my reasoning is very simple. For a holiday that's supposedly all about love and happiness, it sure seems to raise people's anxiety levels.  

Example #1:  Many women worry about what they'll receive from their significant others, because for many there is an unspoken competition with other women as to who will receive the best gift.  Unfortunately, Valentine gifts have become very much a status symbol with many.  I've known a few women who have actually gone so far as to send themselves flowers on Valentine's Day because, unsure as to whether their boyfriends and husbands would send anything, they didn't want to be in a position where they didn't receive something on Valentine's Day.

And this anxiety doesn't just affect women, men often feel it as well.  Example #2: I know several men who have expressed how stressful Valentine's Day can be and how hard it is to plan the perfect/original/creative Valentine's Day experience for their loved one.  Sadly, a few have also expressed how disheartening it is to plan something, something that they really put a lot of thought, effort, and often money into only to receive a lackluster response.  

Lastly, Example #3: Those who do not have a significant others often feel left out on Valentine's Day.  Our Valentine's Day traditions do tend to overlook them (I know because I experienced this for many years).  It also has a strange way of emphasizing one's relationship status more than any other day of the year, which can be very upsetting for some.

Anyway, that's why I'm not much of a fan of Valentine's Day.  I really think it brings out the worst in many of us.  So, without further ado, here are three things that you will not find me doing come Wednesday:

GOING OUT TO EAT

This is probably my number one complaint of my birthday falling on Valentine's Day.  I learned a LONG time ago, that going out to eat on my birthday required one of the following:  1) patience, because 2-3 hour wait typically requires a lot of patience; 2) reservations; or 3) settling for fast food because of the previous two items listed.

EXPECTING ROSES

One of the first things I told my husband when we first got together was to not send me roses for Valentine's Day and this simple statement elicited a comical and very shocked look on his face that I still remember to this day!  LOL!  My reasoning is this, roses are crazy expensive on this holiday.  I mean, I get the whole supply and demand thing, but still.  I don't want him spending a bunch of money on something that I'll be throwing into the trash next week.  I'd much rather him take me to do something, something that we both could experience together, like a concert or a show or an exhibit.  If he wants to pick me up a bouquet of Crazy Daisies, which are much more reasonably priced, that's fine.

EATING CHALKY CANDY CONVERSATION HEARTS OR CHOCOLATES THAT CAME IN A HEART SHAPED BOX

Bottom line, if I'm going to indulge in something sweet that is higher in calories than I typically eat on Valentine's Day, I'm going to eat something definitely worth my while like creme brûlée, red velvet cake, or ice cream from a local creamery. I'm not going to waste my calories on funky tasting candy and waxy chocolate.


If you're curious as what I WILL be doing on Valentine's Day, check back Wednesday.  

In the meantime, however, what are some things you will not be doing on Valentine's Day?

Happy Monday to you!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Dear...


Dear Facebook Pot Stirrer,

I love how you proudly professed your ability to "scroll on by" something you saw on Facebook that you didn't like or didn't necessarily agree with.

Honey,  I hate to tell you this, but by commenting on the post that you're supposedly "scrolling on by," you're not scrolling on by; "scrolling on by" involves no typing on your part.


Dear Narcissist,

You are not cursed.  If the people whom you surround yourself with do harmful things to themselves, it's not because of you - it's because they have their own issues.  By claiming to be cursed, you are basically saying that you're the reason these people hurt themselves, which, if true, is somewhat disturbing when you really think about it.  More realistically, you just have an over-inflated sense of self and think anything and everything is ALL about you.  Buddy, let me tell you, it's not.  Get over yourself.


Dear Pay at the Pump,


I love you and I hate you.  I love you because you make getting gas so much simpler; you keep me from having to walk into the gas station and interact with folks inside.  This makes me happy.  I hate you, however, when you refuse to work as you are designed to.  Get with the program, will ya?


Dear Singleton on Valentine's Day,


I've been in your shoes, in fact I was in your shoes for many years, so I know what this pink, artificially sweet, over-commercialized, couples holiday can do to your spirit when you're not in a relationship.  Trust me, I remember that feeling all-to-well and I know how much it sucks.  It can actually blow chunks.  But, your perpetual wallowing in self pity on social media is not helping your cause and I suspect it may be making you feel worse.

May I make a suggestion?  Instead of bemoaning about your single status the entire week leading up to V-Day with multiple, daily Facebook or Instagram posts, why don't you use that time to do sometime for you? Invest in yourself.  Are you interested in learning sign language?  Sign up for a class.  Are you interested in oil painting?  Go for it!  Exercise, read, watch classic black and white movies, watch Oscar nominated movies for this year, take a women's self defense class, volunteer.  Bottom line - do something.  Do something productive.  Don't waste this time, for time is something we can never get back.   

Sincerely, 

Ericka

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been on My TBR the Longest and That I Still Haven't Read


Oh, man...  My "to be read" list is an absolute, ever-growing beast!  Seriously, every month I am adding books to it on Goodreads so I honestly have no definitive way of knowing how long some of the books have been on my TBR.  

So, given that most of my book consumption is via audiobook, I turned to my Audible library, which clearly shows the date in which the audiobooks were purchased.  Here are the ten books that I've had the longest, but have yet to read:

*Please note that all of these are audiobooks and I sometimes say "read" even though it's technically "listened to."

Crash and Burn by Lisa Gardner
Purchased March 2015

Between January 2013 and May 2014, I listened to seven Lisa Gardner books, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  But, I think it's safe to say that I burned myself out on her murder mysteries because I haven't read one in three and a half years.  I'm not ruling out the possibility that I will one day pick this book back up, though.  I think I will just have to be in the right mood. 

Purchased March 2015

I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, the book that preceded this one and in which Queenie Hennessy plays a role.  I really thought that I would find this one as interesting and engaging as The Unlikely Pilgrimage...,  but I didn't.  I've started and stopped it several times, but...

Purchased February 2015

I made the mistake of watching the movie before reading the book.  All interest - and I mean ALL interest - gone.


Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Purchased November 2014

I listened to the first two books in this series (Divergent and Insurgent) and then my interest came to a screeching halt.  (Unfortunately this happened after I bought the third book.) I might've eventually started it if I hadn't heard how disappointed many people were in the way the series ended.  I seriously doubt I'll ever listen to it at this point.

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gaboldon
Purchased September 2014

I bought this one right after I finished Outlander and had the best of intentions to listen to it then, but a 40-hour audiobook is intimidating.  To me, that's the equivalent of 3-4 regular length books.  I've stopped and started it on numerous occasions, but then I watched season two of Outlander on STARZ, and now I have zero interest in listening to it what-so-ever.

The Mighty Storm by Samantha Towle
Purchased September 2014

I'm not sure why I bought this, but I have a feeling I might have been influenced by the man on the cover.  When it comes to smut and romance novels, I typically gravitate towards books that feature men who ride Harley's or men who wear kilts.  The guy in this book does neither, but he is a rock star and rock stars have their own unique appeal that I sometimes like.  There is hope for this one yet.  

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly 
Purchased August 2014

I'm pretty sure I snagged this audiobook as a Daily Deal on Audible ($4.99 or less) because I thoroughly enjoyed the one book of Connelly's that I had listened to previously (The Poet).  Sadly, just like the next book, it kept getting pushed further and further down in my library.

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
Purchased June 2014

After finishing this book's prequel, The Poet, I quickly obtained this one.  I'm not sure what happened, but I never got around to it and it slowly kept getting moved further and further down in my library.  I might pick this book back up one day.

Purchased November 2013

After reading another of the author's books, Night Film, I was intrigued enough to buy this one.  Somewhere along the way, however, my interest wained and here we are, four years later and it's gathering virtual dust in my audiobook library.  There is still hope for this book; I'm still interested. 

11/23/63 by Stephen King
Purchased November 2013 - OFFICIALLY THE BOOK THAT HAS BEEN ON MY TBR THE LONGEST

I love the premise of the book, I really do.  I also have this weird, little fascination with the JFK assassination, so, in theory, this is a book that I should've jumped on immediately and listened to years ago.  But, I haven't.  I believe I am intimidated and scared away by the length of the audiobook - 30 hours!  That's a huge time commitment.  I'm not ruling out the possibility of me reading this book one day, but with each passing year and as I continually add to my TBR, the odds are not in its favor.


What are some books that have been on your TBR the longest?  What do you think the chances are that you will ever read them?

Have a good one and happy reading!


Linking up with:

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Currently... (Vol. 25)


Making...  some progress in Erin's current reading challenge.  To date I've completed a whopping two categories (see very bottom) for 15 points.

Looking...  forward to watching the Winter Olympics!  The winter games are my favorite!

Watching...  episodes of Planet Earth: Blue Earth II on BBC America.



Preparing...  to turn another year older.  This year I'll be 44, which is...  weird. This will be my last year being able to check the "35-44 years old" demographic box on surveys and such.

Thanking...  E Man for the prizes he sent me for winning his year-long Elliptical Challenge. (Thanks, E Man!)


Feeling...  optimistic.  Since New Year's, I've lost five pounds.  It's nice seeing the scale move again (and move again in the right direction) after this long, eight month plateau.

Researching...  a trail in Zion National Park called Angel's Landing.  From what I've read, it's one of the more challenging hikes in the United States.  I'm not sure if I'm up for it or not.  It's definitely not for the faint of heart.
 
via

Deciding...  on a pair of hiking shoes.



Dreading...  going to my state's annual speech pathology conference later this month.  As I've expressebefore, I really don't enjoy going to this conference, but, in the shortest explanation possible,  I must go.

Loving...  that it's a little bit lighter each morning when I arrive to work.



Beginning...  my "training" for the KDF Mini Marathon.  Let me clarify that I'm going to walk it.  Ol' girl here does not run unless something or someone is chasing me.

Enjoying...  my Movie Pass subscription (currently $10 a month)!  In January, I watched 5 movies in the theater:  Wonder, Jumanji, Pitch Perfect 3, Coco, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Listening to...  the audiobook Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.



Reading...  yes, like with my eyeballs reading, Master of the Abyss by Cherise Sinclair.



Shaking...  my head at the ridiculousness of teenagers participating in the Tide Pod Challenge.  I mean, really...




What have you been up to lately?



Linking up with:


Book Challenge by Erin 8.0 Progress To Date


• 5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages
Master of the Mountain by Cherise Sinclair
Read Jan 22-25

• 10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “L”
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Read Jan 21-

• 10 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) red cover
The Royal We by Harriet Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Read Jan 1-20

• 15 points: Read a book with a character’s name in the title 
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

• 20 points: Read a book from this list: Book Riot’s 100 Must-Read Books with Plot Twists
The Couple Next Door by Star Lapena

• 20 points: Read a book with the words “house” or “home” in the title
The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen

• 25 points: Read a book by an author whose first and last name begins with the same letter 
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

• 30 points: Read a book that was originally published in a different language than your own 
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Bachman

• 30 points: Read a book where most of the action takes place on a form of transportation i.e. bus, boat, car, plane, etc. 
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

• 35 points: Read a book with a character that suffers from a debilitating physical illness 

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Can't Believe I Read


When I saw today's Top Ten Tuesday topic, Books I Can't Believe I Read, I immediately blushed and thought of the book I was reading at the time:


Cherise Sinclair's, Master of the Mountain, is, in a word - smut.  Pure and simply smut.  There, I admit it - I read smut from time to time and you know what?  I sooo enjoy it!  But, even having said that, I'm a little surprised that I ever read this book for various reasons.  More surprising, I've read it twice!


Why am I surprised that I read Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darkerand Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James?  Well, I was a latecomer to the game and there's a part of me that can't believe I read them after all the hype was over.


And then there's Grey by E. L. James, which I sometimes can't believe I read as well.  As if reading the first three weren't enough...  Much to my surprise, however, I kind of liked hearing Christian's point of view.


I ruled out being a doctor early on in high school because 1) I hated chemistry and knew that I would never survive Organic Chemistry in pre-med and 2) because I didn't want to deal with major organs, bodily fluids, or death.  That's why I'm very surprised that I read Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach.


I have absolutely no idea whatever possessed me to read Are You There Vodka, It's Me Chelsea by Chelsea Handler, but I did two summers ago.  I'm not a fan of Handler's and I didn't really enjoy her style of humor.


No Angel by Lou Dobyns is a very detailed and sometimes disturbing look into the world of outlaw motorcycle gangs.  It was an absolutely fascinating read and I have no idea why I found it so gripping.  I'm not even sure how this book ever popped up on my reading radar.


It's not so much that I can't believe I read Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, but I'm very surprised that I finished the damned thing.  It was a laborious task that took forever and my hatred towards the book intensified with every turned page. But, at the time I was of the belief that you never abandon a book, so I persisted. That experience taught me a valuable lesson - life is way to short to spend time reading a book that you don't like.


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is one of my favorite books and, surprisingly, it is of a genre that usually isn't my cup of tea. I'm not a sci-fi person, so I am surprised that I ever gave this book a chance. I glad that I did, though.


What are some books you can't believe you read?  Don't by shy...  I'd love to know.


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