December 30, 2015

Book Reviews: Quarterly Updates IV

This year was the first year I've written book reviews quarterly instead of writing one review per book or reviewing books monthly and I definitely plan to keep writing book reviews this way in 2016!

With two days left in the year, I've completed my Goodreads Challenge of reading 50 books but haven't quite finished the Popsugar Reading Challenge I was working toward. Honestly, I'm ok with it. I read a lot of books for that challenge that I wouldn't have normally read...some I loved, some I hated...but the challenge prevented me from reading a lot of books I wanted to read because they didn't fit into the categories. I still loved the challenge so I'm working on one of my own with significantly fewer challenge categories and I'll be posting it here next week! Stay tuned!

Before getting into this quarter's books, I wanted to share my absolute favorite reads of 2015! 

I recommend any and all of these! If you want to stay tuned to what I'm reading in 2016,  be sure to follow me on Goodreads!

Without further ado, here are the books I read to wrap up 2015! You can read past review posts here, here and here.

"The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway - I've been wanting to read this since I read "The Paris Wife" since most of that book is about the trip to Spain that inspired this book, but it was boring. This was not the brilliant story of the "Lost Generation" that it's been called. It was my first Hemingway and, considering it's supposed to be his best, probably my last. A popular author's first book

"Why Not Me" by Mindy Kaling - I like Mindy's books much better than either Tina Fey's or Amy Poehler's. "Why Not Me" didn't disappoint and I definitely recommend it for a light easy read on a plane or on vacation. 

"The Zookeeper's Wife" by Diane Ackerman - I really wanted to like this book, but I felt like there just wasn't enough material for an entire book to be written. The Zoo Keeper's Wif of a zookeeper in Poland who hid Jews in the zoo to protect them from the Nazi. The book is less about how the Zabynskis saved Jews in Poland during WWII and more about the day to day operations of the zoo after it shut down during the war. The last chapter of the book really didn't have anything to do with the rest of the story and the narration skipped from the third person to first a few times, which was confusing. A book based on a true story

"All the President's Men" by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward - This book is about the Watergate scandal and the word 'impeached' didn't appear until the last page. Written by the two journalists that uncovered Watergate, this was a cumbersome compilation of the journalists' notes, rather than the process behind the investigations. Don't waste your time. Watch the movie with Robert Redford instead. A book that takes place in your hometown 

"Icarus" by Deon Meyer - This is the worst murder mystery I have ever read. There was no suspense build up and the murderer wasn't introduced (yes introduced, not revealed) until 10 pages before the end of the 360-page novel. The motive wasn't brought into the mix until 8 pages before the end. There was no mystery or intrigue throughout the novel and it lacked everything that makes a crime drama/murder mystery a good read. I've never been to South Africa, but the mix of Afrikaans interspersed with English seemed forced. Skip this one. A book with a one-word title

"White Truffles in Winter" by N.M. Kelby - This book was beautiful! Oh my goodness, I loved it so much! At first, I fell in love with the love story and was surprised to see that this book wasn't going to be about the love story. I've never read food so beautifully written before. The story ended differently than I would have liked, but in a way that really only made sense to the story. I highly recommend it. A book with a color in the title

"The BFG" by Roald Dahl - A childhood favorite that's coming to the silver screen in 2016. If you didn't read The BFG as a kid, you're missing out. Penelope Wilton (Isobel from Downton Abbey) is playing Queen Elizabeth in the film, so it's bound to be good! A book from your childhood

"Dreaming in Cuban" by Cristina Garcia - I read Garcia's book "King of Cuba" last year and didn't like it. Everyone told me I would love "Dreaming in Cuban" and I didn't. The characters were underdeveloped and there didn't seem to be a common theme connecting the characters other than them being related to each other. A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit

"Still Alice" by Lisa Genoa - I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer's in 2013 and was scared to read this book about a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer's at 50, but I really hated it. I think the book's biggest failure is that, as Alice's illness progressed, she became blissfully unaware of her surroundings. She didn't know who she was or where she was, but she didn't seem to care. This book failed to capture the fear that Alzheimer's patients so often experience as they advance into the later stages of the disease. A book that became a movie

"Peter and Wendy: Peter Pan, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up" by J.M. Barrie - I've always been a fan of classics. Last year, I read Sherlock Holmes. Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories and I wanted to read the original story. Surprisingly, Disney and Broadway nailed it as they both mirror the book, perfectly. A book more than 100 years ago

"Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford - This is easily one of the best books I've ever read. It's a beautiful story about a young Chinese boy growing up in Seattle who falls in love with a Japanese-American girl who gets taken away to an internment camp in 1942. I picked this up from the library but definitely plan to buy it. This is easily one of my new favorite books and I will definitely read it again. A book with antonyms in the title

"A View from the Bridge" by Arthur Miller - This definitely wasn't as good as "The Crucible" or "Death of a Salesman." I wouldn't say it was anti-climactic but the play just wasn't as compelling as it could have been.  A play

"Persepolis 2" by Marjane Satrapi - I'm about 100 pages into this and love it just as much as I loved the first one. "Persepolis" is the first graphic novel I've read that tells Marjane Satrapi's true story of growing up in Iran during the Revolution. The sequel begins after Satrapi has been sent to Austria by her parents after things in Iran have gotten too dangerous. A graphic novel and A banned book (Persepolis 1 and Persepolis 2)

Have you read any of these?
Have you ever attempted a book challenge?
What are some books that you loved this year?

December 29, 2015

So Long 2015!

Since I started this blog in 2010, I've committed to goals at the start of every year and loved seeing my progress at the end of each year.

I didn't do that last year.

Instead, I said, "I don't want to be bound by a to-do list for the year. I want to be adventurous and spontaneous and I want to learn things and see things and do things."

I made a list of some things that I wanted to work on but didn't really care if I did. Those things included yoga, making more food at home, rather than buying pre-packaged stuff, shopping locally at my local farmers' market, reading more non-fiction, saving money, and exploring more of DC,

I started off the year doing a lot of yoga...and that took a backseat. I've definitely been better at doing yoga at home this year thanks to Yoga with Adriene, but I don't think I get as much out of yoga in my living room (with the dog running around me and the oven preheating for dinner) as I do in a studio.

I definitely tried my hand in some Adventures in Homemade - homemade bread, homemade tomato sauce, pasteis de nata (from Portugal), but I'd like to get better at that, and actually blog about those adventures.

Clockwise from Left: Apple Picking in VA, Hiking in Rock Creek Park, a homemade lattice top pie, at home yoga, "The Bully Pulpit" by Doris Kearns Goodwin
I think I shopped at the Farmers' Market once.

I failed miserably at exploring more of DC. We moved into a new neighborhood and I love it so much, I hardly ever left. I definitely read way more non-fiction than usual and I saved a ton of money.

I definitely had some awesome experiences in 2015. I was finally able to race uninjured and did so at DC Rock 'n' RollCherry Blossom, and finally, Chicago. I traveled a lot.

  • I celebrated my sister's 40th birthday at the Sundance Film Festival.
  • The Pilot and I visited my sister in San Francisco.
  • My mom and I went to Lisbon together, and The Pilot joined.
  • We celebrated our 1st anniversary in Hawaii and then took off on an impromptu trip to Dubai six weeks later.
  • I spent a few days in St. Louis for work, and fell in love with the city.

This year definitely brought some awesome memories and adventures, but at the same time, it was really hard.

The Pilot and I spent more time apart than we ever have. He started the year away in training for a new job for 3 months...and then left again for training with another airline at the beginning of December. He left right after Peyton's surgery and it was tough taking care of her by myself. Peyton's cancer diagnosis in itself was a tough blow but I'm so grateful that we were able to act quickly with the support of some really generous family and friends.

I don't think I was my best self in 2015. I think I was selfish in a lot of regards, but at the same time, I didn't really do anything for myself. I half-assed my way through marathon training, almost reinjuring myself in the process. I spent more time on my couch this year than ever before, I turned down a lot of plans and invitations and secluded myself. I'm not even really sure why.

I'll be 29 in 2016 and lately, I've been thinking a lot about where I want to be at 30. I want to be more committed this running, to blogging, to my family, to traveling...everything. I want to be my best self at 29 and that means saying "Yes" a lot more, and being the adventurous, spontaneous self that has always made my happiest. I'll be back later this week with how I plan to make that happen!

So, let's raise a glass to 2015...and another one to 2016!
How did your year shape up?

December 28, 2015

Three Years in DC

Three years ago, The Pilot and I ended our long distance relationship and moved to DC. We had already fallen in love with this city but now, it was home, and more importantly, it was our home.

We spent those first six months exploring every inch of this city we could. We went to all of the museums, we tried restaurants, we went on long walks and longer runs.

I've had offices in Georgetown, McPherson Square and Penn Quarter. I've fallen in love with the restaurants on 14th Street, the bars on U Street, weekend mornings in Eastern Market, and the green spaces of Lincoln and Meridian Hill Parks.

We got engaged on the National Mall. We never even thought about not getting married in DC. We got married across the street from the White House.

DC is home. Everything about this city just feels right. The last three years have been incredible. I haven't spent nearly as much time this year exploring the city as I used to (I didn't do much of anything in 2015 to be honest) and that will definitely change in 2016. This is an amazing city and I plan to keep exploring as much of it as I can. 

I don't know how long The Pilot and I will live in DC. We aren't planning on leaving anytime soon, but I plan to keep exploring as much of our home as possible while we are here. 

What's the one place you've lived that will always feel like home?
Have you been to DC? What are your favorite things about the nation's capital?

December 16, 2015

If We Were Having Coffee...

It's the holiday season. Everyone is out and about running around, going to holiday parties, shopping, wrapping presents, etc. It's that time of the year when it's easy to say "I'm too busy." This holiday season, I'm making a conscious effort not to do that. If we were able to find time for a coffee date this week, here's what I would tell you.

Peyton is going to be fine.  The biopsy showed that the cancer was of a low enough grade that it wasn't able to spread and shouldn't come back. This was such a relief. Aside from the stress of Peyton's surgery, the added stress from the anticipation was driving me crazy. I was so scared that the surgery wouldn't be enough and that we'd be out of options, but that wasn't the case at all and our sweet pup is going to be just fine. 

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I'm having a really hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year. I haven't done any shopping, I haven't gone to any parties, I've been a bit of a grinch. I'm hoping to spend some time this weekend seeing all of the Christmas decorations around DC and I'm hoping that that will help.

I would tell you that I keep opening my 2016 planner and then walking away from it. This year has been really hard and I don't want next year to be anything like it. I'm looking forward to a fresh start, to spending a lot more time running, and to hopefully, a better year, but I'm having a hard time actually making plans for the New Year.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this post has been a little depressing, so here's what I am looking forward to: time with mama, time with The Pilot, new friends and beginnings, Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), Rum Chata, and tons of puppy snuggles, because Peyton is going to be just fine, and that is truly a Christmas miracle!

Happy Hump Day!
What do you do when you're having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit?

December 10, 2015


Feeling... stressed and sleep deprived. Peyton has been waking up every 2 hours since she came home from the vet and I am just exhausted. She's doing really well but she just wants to play in the middle of the night. I think the pain meds are messing with her sleep schedule.

Reading... "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova. I started it on the metro this morning. I don't think I like it but I'm only 30 pages in. Has anyone read it? I haven't seen the movie either.

Watching... "Telenovela" on NBC. I grew up watching telenovelas in my grandparents' house and while I wish this show was a little bit more's kind of funny.

Needing... to finish my Book Challenge. I'm a little bit behind and need some recommendations for books to read. Who can help? These are the categories I have left:

A book more than 100 years old - I need a short one, so I think I'm going to read Peter Pan
A book with antonyms in the title
A book written by an author with your same initials (CM or CK)
A play
A banned book
A book set during Christmas

Wanting... sleep.

Working on... my blog redesign. I put that on hold for awhile but it's getting close to finished.

Grateful for... our friends and family who have supported our Crowdrise campaign to offset Peyton's veterinary bills. I never thought so many people would be willing to help and I'm so grateful that they have been. It's making this situation a little bit less stressful to deal with.

Loving... the Christmas decorations all over the city. I went for a run on Tuesday by the Capitol and the Capitol Christmas tree is so pretty at night!

Do you have any recommendations for the books left in my challenge?
How do you deal with sleep deprivation?
What are your favorite elements of a blog design?
Happy Thursday!

December 8, 2015

Planes, Trains, and ???

I have been a ball of stress for the last six weeks. I've been stressed about work, about money, about the holidays, and now about Peyton.

My mind is running constantly so I'm  having a hard time falling asleep and an even harder time waking up. Since I  brought Peyton home from surgery, she's been waking me up every 2 hours and I'm exhausted. I haven't been eating right. I went grocery shopping this weekend for the first time in probably a month.

Last week, I ran twice. The Chicago marathon was two months ago and I've run four times since.

I haven't done yoga since before the marathon. I haven't been to a spin class or a barre class or anything like that. I basically ran the marathon and stopped working out.

It's completely unlike me and all of a sudden, it hit me why things have been so stressful. The circumstances are there, but my capacity to deal with them? Gone. I am a true believer in the cleansing powers of exercise. By not working out, I'm not even giving my body or mind a chance to blow off some steam.

So, I'm trying to run again. I ran 3 miles last Wednesday with The Pilot and 3.5 miles with a friend on Sunday. I've been sore after each, but in that way that makes you crave another workout.

I don't know if I'll run tonight but i will run this week.The point of this post is that this used to be a running blog. Part of the reason it hasn't been one is because I was injured for so long but I'm recovered now. For two years, I couldn't run and now that  I can, I'm not running.

I promised myself that when I recovered I would never take for granted my ability to run and not only am I doing just that but by not running I've given up part of myself.

{via Stride Box}
So I'm committing to run and I'm committing to writing about running. It might only be twice a week (tge running part, not the writing) but I know that I need to get back out there, if for no other reason than to clear my mind of all of the stresses in my life right now.

Wish me luck and, if you can, try to hold me accountable.

December 7, 2015

Girl's Best Friend

Oh my goodness. What a week.

Thank you all for your sweet comments about Peyton on my post on Friday. The Pilot and I were so appreciative of the support through what has been a surprisingly difficult week.

Last Monday, Peyton stepped on broken glass and cut her paw. Tuesday morning, she was still bleeding so The Pilot took her to the vet. He asked them to check out a small lump we had noticed a few weeks ago and on Wednesday, she was diagnosed with cancer. Thursday, we met with the veterinary oncologist (Yes, those exist. I had the same reaction) and Friday, she went in for surgery. It all happened so quickly, but our sweet pup is home and recovering.

The Pilot and I didn't do much other than take care of Peyton this weekend. Friday, after we picked Peyton up from the vet, we took her to the pet store to pick up some food. Since the surgery was on her mouth, she's going to be on a soft food diet for the next few weeks, so we had to pick her up some wet food. We were absolutely exhausted and spent most of the night trying to keep Peyton comfortable before finally falling asleep.

Saturday, we rearranged our apartment so that Peyton could maneuver it a little bit more easily with her cone. The funny thing is, I like it better this way!

Sunday, The Pilot and I did some typical Sunday things, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. and I went out for a run. It was only my 4th run since Chicago and it was hard and I was out of breath, but it felt so good to get out there, especially given all of the stress of this week.

If I'm being completely honest, I would have rolled my eyes at a post like this a year ago. Honestly. The last 5 days of my life have completely revolved around my dog. Thursday morning, I was so terrified that we were going to bring her to the vet and they were going to tell her that she had two months to live and that would be it. I came home from work Wednesday and just sobbed. I never ever thought that something like this would hit me so hard, but here we are. I'm hoping things settle down a bit as she starts to get better through the week and I'm anxiously awaiting the results of her biopsy.

This week has been so hard, but it's amazing to see so many people reach out to help us out - whether it's to petsit Peyton while I'm at work, to give advice about how to keep her from getting out of her cone, or to help us offset the costs of her surgery. As you can imagine, Peyton's veterinary bills were costly and unexpected. The Pilot and I launched a Crowdrise campaign over the weekend to try and offset some of those costs and were blown away to see so many friends and family help us out.

2015 has been a really hard year, but to have something like this happen, and realize how many people out there care about us is truly amazing. <3

December 4, 2015


The Pilot got Peyton right after we started dating. I thought this was the most irresponsible thing he could have done. He was living with friends and interviewing to become a pilot.

We were kind of, sort of, not really dating, so I kept my mouth shut. After all, she was freaking adorable.

Fast forward three years and The Pilot and I were moving in together. Peyton and I had a rocky start. She was HIS dog and would bark aggressively every time we hugged. When we moved in together, The Pilot picked her up from his parents house, drove her to DC, and left the next day for a 4-day trip.

It was terrible. She was in a new place with a new owner. I think she thought The Pilot had left her for good. She shook uncontrollably and peed every time I walked into the room. Peyton and I, as roommates, were not off to a good start.

But things slowly changed. We started recognizing that we are a part of each other's lives. Slowly but surely, she became my "sweet pea honey bee." When my godfather passed away, and my grandfather later that year, Peyton put her head on my lap and licked the tears from my face. When we came back from Dubai in October, she was more affectionate than ever.

A few years ago, a friend of mine found out that their dog had cancer. They spent a fortune to treat their dog, who is now happy and healthy. I told The Pilot that if we were ever in that situation, we wouldn't be able to pay that. We wouldn't do it.

Well, on Wednesday, we found out that Peyton has cancer. I found myself at a veterinary oncologist yesterday and, this morning, we're dropping her off for surgery.

I can't even comprehend how much this is costing us. I tried so hard to estimate what this would cost and I came up short by $1,000...but what else can we do? Peyton is just as happy and healthy as ever. We discovered her tumor, which is just beneath her chin, two weeks ago, but she's otherwise, a normal, happy, over-excited dog who loves chasing squirrels. 

Our options are to have the surgery and, if all goes well, she'll be fine, or, we could leave it alone and let it keep growing and be forced to put her down in a few months. So, here we are.

This year has been so, so, so hard. At the start of the year,  The Pilot was living in St. Louis, training for a new job less than six months after our wedding. Once he got out of training, his schedule was wildly unpredictable. He would leave for a day trip and not come home for 5 or 6 days. It was hard, but I came home every night to a wagging tail and it made everything better.

Peyton was always The Pilot's dog, but over the course of our relationship, she's become mine too. The Pilot is away most of the time and having Peyton makes it so much easier. 

It took awhile, but I truly couldn't imagine my life without Peyton. She's our first baby, our little bee, and right now, we're doing everything we can to save her.

I don't know if that will be enough, but we have to try. 

So, here's to hoping.
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