Book Report: Top 5 All Time Favorites.

I am a slow reader. And sometimes I go months where I don’t crack open a book. But they’re always at least part of the background for me.

Last week, I rediscovered the library and I am totally drawn to it. My library card is about 17 years old, and I just found out it’s still usable. So now I have three library books checked out and a collection of purchased books I’m looking to sell. No joke, every time I’ve opened one of my rented books this week, I’ve gotten a thrill. They make a different sound. They’re awesome.

Considering my snail reading pace, I thought I’d kick things off on the blog with some all time favorites, instead of a “what I’m reading now” list.

First up, my absolute favorites (not genre specific). And to throw a High Fidelity reference in for good measure, I made it a Top Five list.

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Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen // The movie adaptation for Water for Elephants came out in 2011, and I made it my goal that year to read the book from start to finish before it did. Don’t get me wrong, I love Reese Witherspoon. And at one time, was a bit nuts for Robert Pattinson. But when I read a book, I like to create my own characters. It might be the best part of reading for me, even though I love movies most of all.

I was really glad I did. I fell for all of the characters in the book. It starts out with a Polish kid going to school to be a vet, and after a really tragic beginning to the book, it finds him running away to the circus. It was a really great read for when you’re going through some “there must be something else” moments. I’ve had a few of them over the past few years.

The book throws Jacob into a brand new life and I love the world that the author creates. There’s some sap and obviously some love. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger // Another book turned movie. I made the same rule for myself for this one, and read the book before the movie premiere. For this one, I was not a fan of the movie. I liked seeing the adaptation, and what they chose to do with some of the scenes. But it lost all of the great, beautiful, sappy pieces that brought the story to life. I definitely suggest sticking to the book. If you’ve already seen the movie, it might already be too late.

It centers on time travel, which sounds even hokier than the circus. But I really dug it. Basically, it was a really refreshing take on a love story, that you just couldn’t follow in order. It was perfect for the story, because the two people falling in love didn’t even get to have it in the same order. It was like little snapshots of their story unfolding, and it was so well written.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern // Two books about the circus on my top five list. You must think I’m nuts. Honestly, if anyone has any suggestions for even more beautifully written novels that take place at a circus, lay them on me. I think they’re so rad.

This might be my favorite book of all time. Even in the top five list. It took me a few pages to care about it or really want to keep reading. I bet I can tell you exactly how many pages…

OK, I can’t. I went looking for that exact moment I realized I was smitten with The Night Circus, and instead I spent five minutes reading passages instead of writing this blog post. But, it happened. It took more than 50 pages and less than 100, and then I was totally obsessed. The book is pretty magical, and descriptive in the very best way. You follow the circus that “arrives without warning.” And it’s a winding love story. I fell in love with the characters, but it’s at least as much about, if not more about, falling in love with the magical black and white circus. And Erin Morgenstern painted it beautifully. I’ve been waiting for something else to read from her because I loved what she created.

Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen // Sarah Addison Allen might be the reason I keep looking for something else by Morgenstern. Every book I’ve picked up by her, I’ve devoured. The plots are a bit predictable. Set in a small town, with a charming but flawed cast of characters, something the main character needs to discover, unlikely love, and a lot of magical realism on top of simple day-to-day things. But it is done so well every time, and I hope it doesn’t change.

Garden Spells was the first book I read by Allen, and I think it’s still my favorite. (Though, I have honestly liked every single one, and am currently reading The Peach Keeper.) There is an enchanted apple tree, and a sister who comes home to North Carolina, and really good love story plot, too. I’d suggest just starting with whichever book your library has. ;-)

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett // I’m not sure about this one. I don’t know if I would have checked it out if it hadn’t blown up the way it did in popularity. But I’m really glad I did. It’s another case of just adoring how the author crafts the scenes. It didn’t seem out of place to go back and forth between narrators, and I didn’t struggle at all with the dialect being written how it should have sounded. I got really into it, actually.

It’s a story about women and their maids in the south 50 years ago, and how all of their plots weave together. I love Skeeter and all the women her character helps to give a voice. I’m not sure I can do it justice any more than that.

Five Day Weekend: Beach Trip

I am coming off a five-day holiday. I’d been saving up my vacation days, and decided it was time to spend a few. So I did.

And it was awesome.

I didn’t “accomplish” that much. But I totally separated myself from work, and focused on relaxing. I’m still feeling a little bit overwhelmed in general, but I definitely needed a break.

I want to share some of the little events from the week.

The day with the smallest number of photos is Friday, so I’ll start with that, since I don’t have much time before work.

P. and I took a day trip to the beach! It was July 19, and I hadn’t been there once this year.

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We had a gorgeous day.

For most of the morning, I laid and read, and P. napped. No photos other than what I posted on Instagram about reading #girlboss. I was all about soaking up the sun.

For lunch, we went to the pizza place on the boardwalk. We sat down like it was a real meal, instead of grabbing some slices and spending three minutes eating them. The waitress was the sweetest, from California, sounded like a hippie, and gave me a free taste of her favorite gelato at the end.

I ordered a mini pizza with artichokes, fresh spinach, tomatoes, and gorgonzola, and swapped the chicken for tofu.

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When we got back to the blanket, we were overrun with people, so we packed up and took an awesome long walk. We were so distracted, we forgot to play skee ball. I guess that means we have to go back soon.

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Day in the Life // July 2014

I’m sharing “a day in the life” for the first time on the blog today. I saw the idea from Ali Edwards and Elise Blaha.

I tried to take photos for this project a few months ago, but failed halfway through every time I made the plan. But this time was a success! I’d love to do this every few months. It’s so random, but so awesome to look through other bloggers’ progressions. This is July 11, 2014.

7:10 AM // P. brews the coffee when he wakes up, and I get up and fix our mugs a little while later.

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Quick peak outside.

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11:30 AM // A coworker left me some Dilberts he thought I would enjoy. It’s all about the little things today.

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12:00 PM // Wait outside to get picked up for lunch. I’m sure turkey sandwiches were involved.

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1:30 PM // Another coworker is retiring today. She got me a Hallmark card pep talk. Yes: she got me a gift for her retirement. She is one of the kindest people. (It had been a rough week. It’s getting better.)

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6:00 PM // The apartment is finally getting unpacked and cleaned up!

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I celebrate with wine. This Valenzano (a Jersey winery) blackerry syrah is my absolute favorite right now.

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6:45 PM // I decide to join Cathy Zielske’s Move More Eat Well challenge. It has proved to be a challenge… But I like the fresh inspiration.

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The idea of scrapbooking or memory keeping about my fitness / weight / health journey is sort of weird. But I also sort of love it.

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7:30 PM // Reward myself with the rest of my glass of wine.

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8:30 PM // We are eating dinner super late these days. But tonight, I had amazing success with my first attempt at baked chicken parm. It might be the fanciest / realest dinner I’ve made.

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We started out eating on the balcony because it looked so beautiful out.

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After these photos were taken, we made it about 30 seconds in the humidity, and escaped back into air conditioning.

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And that’s my first go of documenting day in the life. I still think this project is totally random, but totally awesome.

What I Ate Wednesday // Random Mix

Like I said, I’ve been snapping photos like a maniac with my new camera. I went through my July folder and picked out a few random favorites that I don’t plan to share elsewhere.

First up, a date night out. We started with drinks, and I ordered the sangria.

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Then I got the corn crab cake, with sweet potato puree.

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That photo definitely doesn’t do it justice, but I was too happy to eat it, and quit with the photos. It’s just a ton of fresh crab meat.

We have birthday celebrations at work all the time. It’s way too hard to pass by the food and eat what I originally had in mind for breakfast. This time was no different.

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I had a piece of fruit tart from Whole Foods, and an incredible spinach dip. One of our colleagues is Greek, and he prepares the most delicious things. I have no idea what it was about this spinach dip, but I’ve never had one like it.

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But P. and I have still been doing good with packing our lunches.

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I promise I didn’t stage those ridiculous red flowers for my background. But I figured since my mom picked them from the front lawn, I’d leave them for the lunch shot. I realize that this turkey sandwich – while insanely delicious – looks a little too epic.

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And lastly, I leave you with one of our homemade dinners. I love seafood, and we’ve made some great chicken dinners. But I pretty much draw the line after those two meats. P. loves pork chops, but I just can’t do it. So, he YouTubed a cooking plan, and I helped with mashed potatoes and cornbread stuffing.

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My meal? Cheesy scrambled eggs.

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It seems ridiculous, but it was so good.

Happy What I Ate Wednesday! Linking up with Jenn.

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Stuff I Love: July.

Here’s what i’m digging this month.

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1 sony rx100 iii camera // 2 hbo’s girls // 3 mexican yoga blankets // 4 maybelline coral hi-light blush // 5 carmex lip balm // old navy men’s flip flops

I’m loving the yoga blankets on our chairs on the balcony. I don’t worry about them getting messed up, but they’re pretty comfortable. And warm when I was out there in the morning.

Two new things: men’s flip flops and blush. Both are game changers this summer. These aren’t the exact flip flops I bought; mine are grey and braided fabric on top. But just walk into the men’s section and buy little. So dang comfortable. Also, the idea of blush made me really uncomfortable until I just went for it last week. It’s not really pink at all. And I think that was my aversion.

A little obsessed with HBO’s Girls. Sometimes I think I hate it. But I always go back to binge-watching it.

And, guys. This camera. I am so thrilled with it. I have been taking photos nonstop since it arrived a couple of weeks ago. I can’t believe what comes out of this 4-inch point and shoot. And I don’t know if I will ever go back to an SLR.