Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday's Seven Snapshots vol.110

Example #1 why I'll never be "skinny":  These pancakes with bananas, strawberries, butterscotch, and vanilla ice cream were worth every single calorie.

Example #2 why I'll never be "skinny": my accompaniment to this month's Show Us Your Books link-up was Ben & Jerry's Phish Food.  No regrets.

I did mix in some exercise though...a lengthy walk along the harbour.

One of the special things about living can exercise (with a walk along the harbour), then relax by reading a book with a view like this.

Taronga Zoo hosts a summer concert series called "Twilight At Taronga" at an outdoor amphitheatre.  My good friend, Kate, and I scooped up tickets when we saw the line-up this year.

This was the view to the side of the stage while the opening band was playing.  I'm not even kidding.  Sydney can be such a show-off sometimes.

JET!  I love this band so much.  They hadn't performed live in 7 years (until this summer).  I'd seen them a couple of times back in the States, and I saw them here before as well...there was something really fun and exciting to see them back together again.  The crowd was so pumped and sang along to every song.  This show sold out, and they are playing a second show tonight. 

Hope your week had some tasty treats, or a refreshing walk, or a good book, or time with a good friend, or seeing great live music.  Tell me if you did any (or all) of these things.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I show you my books, you show me yours... vol.25

Valentine's, Schmalentine''s Show Us Your Books Day!  The day hosted by Jana & Steph, the day that makes my goodreads "to read" list grow, and the day I interact with a blogging community of readers.  I love this day of the month.

And, this month, I enjoyed everything I read, so you can't go wrong with taking a look at one, two, or all of these for your future reads...

What I've read since our last link-up:

1.  The Girl Before by Rena Olsen - I did not want to set this book aside. I would have read it all in one sitting if that had been possible. I felt so many things while reading this story. I was infuriated and saddened, annoyed and disgusted, but I also felt compassion and empathy. I enjoy a book that can provoke so many emotions while reading it. There were aspects that seemed far-fetched, but hey, it's fiction, right? 4.5/5  (Special thanks to Micah for gifting me this book during the Great Pumpkin Swap!)

2.  I Came to Say Goodbye by Caroline Overington - Oh, my heart. This book put my heart through the works. It smashed my heart, wadded it up, stomped on it, tore it in pieces, and put the pieces back together, scattered them again, and on and on. It was narrated in a unique way which added different elements to the story. The book dealt with extremely difficult, uncomfortable topics from abandonment, child abuse, family relationships, mental illness, and more. I thought it was excellent and will definitely read more from this Australian author.  4.5/5

3.  We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler - An unexpected profound and beautiful story about a unique family dynamic.  4/5

4.  Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta - In a book that contains numerous storylines that are all interconnected, there was one I wasn't buying. But, I enjoy her writing so much, I just eventually gave in to it all. A mystery & thriller book that also examines themes of race relations, family relationships, sacrifice, and more. 4/5

5.  Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani - A powerful story about the aftermath of abuse and how victims' lives, choices, and relationships can be negatively impacted for years, even after they are no longer living with the abuser(s). Some of the writing felt a bit melodramatic, and it was difficult to have empathy for a couple of the characters, but overall, I still felt it was a good book. 3.5/5

6.  A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain - A modern day FBI agent ends up helping to track down a serial killer in 1815 England; time travel books are not my usual cup of tea, but I enjoyed this book.   I had no idea "whodunnit" until that was revealed. Sure, there were hints and suggestions, but I had no idea where the story was going to go, and that kept me interested to the very end. I'd even be willing to give the follow-up a try.  4/5

7.  Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - I can't rate this book. I can see why people like it. It's fast-paced and creative, thrilling and unique, but this type of story just isn't my thing. I recommend it to any science fiction reader, something I am not. And, I'm aware other readers have really enjoyed it as well.  I read it quickly, because it's so fast-paced it's easy to do, but also because I just wanted it to end. Sometimes, I enjoy reading a genre that isn't my normal choice, and I find a new love of story-telling. Other times, I learn not all books are for all readers.  And, that's okay.

A solid month of reading for me.  How was yours?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday's Seven Snapshots vol.109

Hellish heat continues...several days this week exceeded 110*F (43*C)...I tried to walk you can see by my tomato face, I was still feeling the heat. 

We had some fun times for the husband's birthday weekend including the Guns N Roses concert.

My pics from the show are crap because we were farrrrrrr away, but if you care about rock music at all, you will understand my excitement when Angus Young of AC/DC joined the stage for 2 songs.  Living legends!  This is a pic of Angus, Duff, and Slash. You just have to trust me on that.

Not my picture, but I had to share to show that Duff won the best t-shirt contest.

The stepkid's birthday gift to his dad was taking him to a cat cafe, as they share a love of all things feline.

There are 13 rescue cat residents at the Catmosphere Cafe ~ we watched them snooze, fed them tuna, and enjoyed every second of it.

Going to a cat cafe checked off another item on my "50 Before 50" list too.  Bonus!  I'm surprised we didn't try to leave with them all. 

Kitties & a concert ~ that's a good week for me ~ hope it was a good one for you too!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Stuff & Things vol. 8*

*Somewhere, I lost count what volume this is, but I'm going with "8", not that anyone really cares.

Happy birthday to this guy...I don't gush about him much in this space, but let's just agree that he's a great match for me, and I appreciate him and his love immensely.

I'm going to walk a 10K.  I'm not even sure I can walk 10km, but I'm going to try.  At the end, there will be cured meats, artisan cheeses, wines from local vineyards, and craft beer.  Reward me with food.  Please, and thank you.  If you feel so inclined to support a worthy cause (and support me), you can make a contribution here

A fascinating, scary, informative, and interesting read:  The psychology of why 94 deaths from terrorism are scarier than 301,797 deaths from guns.  And, I suppose I should mention, I'm not trying to take away allllll the guns from every American.  I just think sensible regulations are worth discussing (and enforcing.)  But, enough of what I think, read that article.  I swear it is all the things I said it is -----> fascinating, scary, informative, and interesting.

I had an in-depth conversation with a friend the other night.  I'm going to try to keep it simple when summing it up:  She is American, in her young twenties, and entering a master's program here in Sydney.  She is a survivor of a sexual assault that occurred approximately two years ago.  She reported it to the police.  No charges were filed.  You know, that whole "he said/she said" reason.  Her parents are big Trump supporters.  She asked her parents (after some failed attempts to explain to them why she did not support their choice for President) to not talk "politics" with her anymore.  An argument ensued.  The parents ended up telling her that there is no correlation between her sexual assault experience, and the women that accused DT of inappropriate sexual behavior.  Her parents didn't talk to her for a month, and then when they did contact her, they demanded an apology for being disrespectful to them.  Again, this is me trying to keep it simple.  I've been thinking about this ever since she and I talked. 
One, I'm thinking of my friend.  Her assault, her struggle, her emotions and feelings, her strength, her path of healing.  Two, I'm thinking of other victims.  Those out there who may be struggling silently.  Or arguing with loved ones.  Who are needing support but not getting it.  Three, I'm thinking of people like my friend who reported her assault to the police but got little to no support from authorities.  She is not my first friend to tell me a similar story.  Four, I'm thinking of the negative impacts that this election season and new administration has triggered in victims of sexual misconduct.  Some are feeling like the American people excuse such behaviors.  My friend specifically mentioned this.  She also mentioned the laughable sentence received by the convicted rapist, Brock Turner.  Five, I'm thinking we have a long way to go to smash this rape culture that is still alive and real and prevalent. 

Do you know about Booksgiving by The Bloggess?  Check out this link.  It's wonderful.  Gifting books to strangers.  I love it.  I gifted one. 

Do y'all know about NE Patriots Tight End (and former Texas A&M University Aggie) and his children's book?   I love stories about athletes who aren't just athletes.  NFL Star Martellus Bennett Pens Children's Book Based on Daughter's Persona  Apparently, there is a free app that you can download as well.  If you have young readers or gift books to young readers, check out the website for it.   Bennett was also named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Friday night,
we're going to see the 2017 version of Guns N Roses.  I saw them in 1993.  I saw Axl's version of himself with hired musicians a few years back.  I've seen Velvet Revolver several times with Duff and Slash, and they played some GNR in their setlist.  I saw Slash solo a few times too.  But, Axl, Slash, and Duff are back together, and I'm excited to witness that reunion live.  Slash is my favorite live guitarist, Axl is a phenomenal vocalist, and Duff is just cool.  If you need further proof of how cool he is, check out this post of his on twitter:

Speaking of twitter, I give you this:

Linking..... with  Kristin:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

3 + 3

Steph created this...and then she did it again.  Some of you participated, and now, I am too.

Three things I'd never give up 
My American citizenship (although I've entertained the idea of dual citizenship because that is possible between America and Australia), wearing fun shoes (back in the day, my faves were lime green reebok hi-tops; now, mine are sequined Converse), going to see live music (even though I don't go as often as I used to) ~ I'm going to see Guns N Roses this Friday and JET next Thursday.

Three favorite vegetables
potatoes, green peas, carrots

Three shows I watched faithfully from beginning to end
Oz, Dexter, The Sopranos - yes, HBO had me hooked for a while

Three places I want to visit inside the US
NYC (can you believe I've never been to New York?), San Francisco (and I'm going in June!), Big Bend National Park

Three places I want to visit outside the US
soooo many places, but these 3 popped into my mind first:  Queenstown NZ, Japan, Scotland

Three things I always have with me
phone, book, ponytail holder

Three things that are always in my car
coins in the center console, a blanket (because my husband likes it to be freezing), sunglasses

Three most recent phone calls were to/from
my mom, my cousin, my guy

Three books I read and loved in college

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz
I was reading the early books of the Prey series by John Sandford while I was in college

Three most often used makeup products
Clinique double pressed matte powder, Make Up For Ever Aqua XL eye liner, Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara

Three things that make me laugh
my fur babies, my guy & his inappropriate humor, Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer

Three things that make me cry
homesickness, body image issues, depression

Three things I frequently forget
I can be quite forgetful, so I forget what I frequently forget

Three errands I love to run
Library day!, picking up the stepkid from school, getting my hair cut & colored

Three restaurants I want to try

The Stuffed Beaver
Brooklyn Depot
The Cut

Three famous people I'd like to meet
I'd like to have dinner with Condoleeza Rice, I'd like to have drinks with Pink, and I'd like to be friends with Drew Barrymore

Three famous people I'd like to avoid
Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian

Three things I recommend
sending care packages, Too Faced Melted Matte Liquefied Lipstick, LuLaRoe leggings (I know, I know, I'm not the first to recommend these)

Three books I loved in the elementary/junior high days:
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary

Three things I always look forward to
A visit to Texas, hugs from my guy, eating

Three things I always dread
hearing the alarm in the morning, getting on the scale, reading about a Trump Executive Order

Share some of your answers to any of these questions in my comments, or answer them in your own credit back to Steph. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sunday's Seven Snapshots vol.108

Organizing, editing, sending, and printing resumes... Astro's way of helping?  Sitting on the resume. I'm pretty sure he just wants me to be a stay-at-home cat mom. 

The stepkid started year 4 (4th grade) this week ~ here's hoping he has a great year!

Walking selfie - it didn't happen unless I photo document it, right?  No, actually I took it to prove to one of my friends that I was walking in the heat.  My forehead looks unusually massive in this picture. 

Another week of hot temps, so the girls spent some time inside and right after this picture, they got hosed down with water. 

It's fun to find random pieces of home like this tile on a while in a clothing store. 

Met some friends for lunch on Saturday, and this blood orange margarita was phenomenal. 

It was super hot on Sunday, and neither of us felt like cooking, so this was dinner ~ avocado, cherry tomatoes, and feta on toast. 

Have a great week!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Final report & announcement: Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge 2016

Book challenge announcement before I tell you how I did personally.  After 10 challenges, Megan has decided to halt her hosting duties for Semi-Charmed book challenges.  She has kindly and generously steered her participants to Book Challenge by Erin.  I know she's a beloved host, so I was honored that she did this.  Also, her "winners" will be picking categories for Book Challenge by Erin 7.0 that happens July 1st - October 31st later this year.  So, if you are one of those, feel free to contact me via emailat, through the facebook group, the goodreads group, or this blog.

How did I do?  Not great: 95 points out of 200.  I take that back.  I'm a big believer that if these challenges motivate and encourage a book, any book, even just one book to be read, then that's a win. 

Challenge Categories:
5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 150 pages long.
 READ: Plan B by Jonathan Tropper - he's a favorite author of mine - completed December 15, 2016
10 points: Read a 2016 finalist (longlist or shortlist) for one of the following literary prizes: National Book Award, Man Booker or Man Booker International.
READ:  Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo  - a delightful book - completed November 8, 2016
10 points: Read a brand-new release (something published between November 1, 2016, and January 31, 2017).
READ:  Cross the Line by James Patterson (expected release date: November 3, 2016) -  The Alex Cross series is the only James Patterson books that I loyally keep up with when one is released - completed November 24, 2016
15 points: Read a book by an author of a different race or religion than you.
My choice:  We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo -  I picked up this book last week for $5 without knowing it would be a perfect choice for this challenge; this book is still sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read.
15 points: Read a book featuring a main character who is of a different race or religion than you.
READ:  When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi -  If you have any interest in the plight of refugees, I recommend this fictional account - completed November 21, 2016
20 points: Read a modern retelling of a classic (e.g. an Austen Project novel, Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, etc.) — Submitted by SCSBC16 winner Kaity.
My choice:  The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (retelling of Hamlet) -  Jana rated this book 4*, and Jana and I have similar tastes in books; didn't get to it, but I will someday.
25 points: Read a book with an alcoholic beverage (neat or cocktail) in the title. — Submitted by SCSBC16 winner Kerry. (And she was nice enough to come up with a long list of suggestions for you!)
READ:  Tequila Sunset by Sam Hawken - it was good, wasn't great, but I enjoyed it enough - completed November 13, 2016
30 points: Read a book with a character that shares your first or last name. (Alternate spellings are okay, e.g. Megan and Meghan or Smith and Smyth.) — Submitted by SCSBC16 winner Ericka.
READ: The Girl Before by Rena Olsen - Fantastic, creepy, messed up book that I recommend; There was a character in the therapy group named "Erin"; completed January 11, 2017
30 points: Read two books: a nonfiction book and a fiction book with which it connects. For example: A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie and one of Christie's mystery novels that features poison, or The Monuments Men and All the Light We Cannot See. The possibilities are endless, so have fun with this one! — Submitted by SCSBC16 winner Bev. (And remember you must finish both books to get the 30 points! No partial points will be awarded.)
My choices (both books about someone wrongly imprisoned):  Getting Life by Michael Morton - this book is still sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read.

READ:  Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - completed December 4, 2016; I don't get the points
40 points: Read two books: one by an author whose first name is the same as the last name of the author of the other book. For example: You may read a book by Martin Cruz Smith and a book by George R.R. Martin, or a book by James Joyce and a book by Joyce Carol Oates. The shared name must be spelled exactly the same, no variations. — Submitted by SCSBC16 winner Jamie. (And remember you must finish both books to get the 40 points! No partial points will be awarded.)
My choices:  In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran by Nigel John TAYLOR and The Informationist by TAYLOR Stevens - I checked out both of these books from the library during the challenge; I renewed both of them too, but I still didn't pick up either to read.  Oh well.

If you've participated in any of Megan's book challenges, make sure you stop by her blog and wish her well!