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June 30, 2017

Everything I Read in June

I'm in a reading rut this year. I'm seven books behind my goal of 55 books this year (which was, admittedly ambitious) but I've gone whole days without reading, something I don't think I've done since college. I've read so many books this year that I didn't like, that it's been hard to pick things up again.

I'm desperately in need of a good read. I'm mulling over which books to bring on vacation next month, so suggestions are welcome!



In the meantime, here's a look at what I've read this month:

"In the Woods" by Tana French - Since "The Trespasser" came out, I've been really eager to read Tana French. I've heard amazing things about her latest book but it was at my local, neighborhood bookshop that someone recommended I start with French's first book, "In the Woods." The six-book series doesn't follow any chronological order but rather involves some of the same characters, all detectives in the Dublin Murder Squad.

I enjoyed this book. I gave it three stars. The novel begins in Ireland on a summer day in the 80s when three kids go out to the woods to play, and only one comes back. The case goes cold and, years later, Detective Rob Ryan, the child left behind, finds himself back in Knocknaree, the town he grew up in, investigating the murder of a young girl that may have ties to his missing friends.

I can't say why I didn't rate this book better without giving away spoilers, but I will say that if you like crime novels (which I actually don't) or are interested in mysteries, this is a quick read that will be perfect for a long flight this summer!

"The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" by Anne Fadiman - This book was heartbreaking, yet fascinating. A nonfiction book, it goes into remarkable detail about Lia Lee, a Hmong girl in Merced County, CA who developed a seizure disorder at 4 months old. Lia's family are Hmong refugees who didn't speak English and couldn't convey to her doctors what was happening, especially since, early on, she stopped seizing before she arrived at the hospital. The book is a tragedy of errors telling the collision between Western medicine and Eastern culture. Lia's parents wanted to slaughter animals in an offering to help bring her soul back, the reason, they thought for her seizures. Lia's doctors' were frustrated at what they deemed noncompliance by her parents for failing to give Lia her medicine when they couldn't understand the directions, particularly in regards to dosage and times, as culturally, they tell time by the light of day and the rooster's crow. Lia's parents were frustrated at what her doctors' were doing to her (taking blood when they believed she had a finite amount of blood or performing a spinal tap, which they didn't understand the point of). When translators were used, they were Hmong custodians at the hospital or the Lee's teenage daughter.

It's hard to say I loved this book because of the subject but I loved reading it and, I honestly think this should be required reading for any medical practitioner.  I highly recommend this book. We read it for my book club and it was interesting to see what perspective people took - siding with either the doctors or the family. I'd be curious to know what others think.

"Echoland" by Joe Joyce - When I travel, I always try to pick up a book at a local bookstore that takes place in the city or country I'm visiting. While in Dublin, I picked up this book which had recently been awarded Dublin's One City One Book choice. The shopkeeper highly recommended the book and I couldn't wait to dive in.

I didn't like it. I had a really hard time following the dialogue, something I've never struggled with in a novel before, and the book just dragged on. Set during WWII or, The Emergency, as it was called in Ireland, Paul Duggan is tasked with following someone thought to be a German spy, as part of his role in the Army's Intelligence Division. At the same time, his uncle, a politician, asks him to help find his daughter, who may have been kidnapped. The entire book involves Duggan going back and forth between the two cases and, in the end, they are maybe, somehow, a little bit, but not really linked? I wouldn't recommend it.

"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood - I actually read this last month before we chose it for our June book, but I'll review it now!

The premise of the book is a dystopian world where the birth rate is on a significant decline because of environmental factors. Offred, the main character, has been rounded up to serve as a handmaid, with the sole responsibility of getting pregnant and giving her Commander, a child. In this book, women have been relegated to the role of baby makers, and Offred's only goal is to survive.

I read this book in high school and don't remember anything other than the fact that I loved it. In our current political climate, I was looking forward to reading it again and watching the Netflix series. I had heard great things about the new Audiobook release, narrated by Claire Daines, so I downloaded that. I'm disappointed to say that this time around, I couldn't get into it. I didn't like Daines' narration and I had a hard time following. I do think this book deserves a read but I recommend actually reading it.

So that's everything I've read this month! I've just started "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson but, as I said, I'm looking for recommendations!

Have you read any of these?

What have you read lately that you loved?





June 29, 2017

Currently...

I remember when I used to write these posts every single week, no matter what and here I am, writing my second 'Currently...' post of the year.

My poor, neglected little blog here has been pulling at my heart strings. I'm itching to get back to writing consistently, reading other blogs, and sharing my travel stories both as a resource and a keepsake.

I still owe you my posts from our March trip to Dubai! So, for the month of July, I'm giving myself a challenge - 30 days of working on my blog - not posting every day, but doing something to invest time into this little corner that has been so much a part of me for the last seven (yes, seven!) years.

I hope you'll stay along for the journey! Now, onto today's business...


Currently... Planning our summer vacation. The Pilot and I are both desperately in need of some time away. (I know, I just spent weekends in Dublin and San Francisco) but we aren't taking our anniversary trip in September because of back to back weddings, so we're taking it now. After weeks of hemming and hawing, we finally decided where to go! I can't wait to share all the details!

Feeling... unsure. This has been a loaded question lately. May was a really hard month and I'm still reeling from everything that happened. These little weekend getaways have been every bit about getting away to take my mind off of things and I'm hoping that our vacation will help me to reset and start to feel at peace with my new normal.

Reading... I finished a book last night and am thinking about starting either "The Tiger's Wife" or "The Devil in White City" today. Has anyone read either?

Thinking about... everything I need to get done before we leave for vacation. Our apartment still isn't completely unpacked...yes, since we moved in six months ago and I really want to come back from vacation without anything home-related on my to-do list.

Watching.. Jane the Virgin. Oh my gosh, what?! I just finished Season 3! Does anyone watch this show? I need to talk about it. Season 3 was a roller coaster that left me with way more emotions than a TV show should be capable of!

Working on... getting back to running. Until last week, I hadn't run in six weeks. Yup, me, the blogger behind Planes, Trains, and RUNNING SHOES, hadn't run in nearly two months. I'm telling you, life has been tough lately. After almost two weeks of not running more than two miles, I finally made it up to three this week. Yup, that's an accomplishment for me these days. Seven-time marathoner right here.

Planning... our vacation!

Needing... a massage...so badly.

Wanting... to have everything in our house magically be done so that we can take a true staycation. The Pilot and I talked about a staycation this summer but I felt like it would inevitably turn into a marathon of work, which I really don't want.

Loving... The Pilot. He's been my rock these last few weeks and I don't know what I would do without him.

Don't forget to link up tomorrow for the Beyond Words Book Club! 
We're discussing Margaret Atwood's, "The Handmaid's Tale".

What's on your 'Currently' list lately?

June 28, 2017

A Wedding Weekend in San Francisco

Right before we went to Dublin, one of my girlfriends sent me a message asking if I would be up for going to San Francisco with her for a wedding in two weeks.

Umm obviously. 

That's one benefit of behind able to hop on a plane at a moment's notice...if you need a plus 1 to a wedding, I'm your girl. Plus, I love San Francisco.


So exactly two weeks after I landed in Dublin, I set my alarm for 3 am and made my way to SFO. I was ecstatic to learn that the wedding we were going to was an Indian wedding, which I've always wanted to go to! We landed in SF on Friday morning and headed straight to our Air BnB in Inner Sunset. We both had some work to do so after we checked in, we went to a coffee shop to wrap up work for the day and then set off to explore. 

We started in the Mission with tacos at La Taqueria (OMG hard tacos stuffed into a soft taco...amazing!) and wandered in and out if the thrift shops in the Mission for awhile.

We made our way to the Embarcadero to meet up with my sister's family for dinner at Pier 23. My sister was out of town but I still had a blast! I had a Pimm's Cup (my favorite!) and the crab cakes, which were amazing! It was a perfect evening to be on the water and soak up the perfect summer day.


We went back to our Air BnB to freshen up and then headed to the Tonga Room for drinks. The Tonga Room is an SF institution...a tiki bar/club with pretty great live music and summery cocktails, we had a great time there until we both started yawning because we had both been up for over 24 hours!

Our Air BnB had the comfiest bed I have ever slept in and the minute I crawled into it, I was out! 

Saturday morning, we woke up and headed to brunch in the neighborhood and then took a long walk down to Ocean Beach. It felt so good to take my shoes off and put my feet in the sand!


The real reason we went to Ocean Beach though?


CorgiCon.



Until this trip, I had a take-them-or-leave-them approach to corgis. Sure they were cute but I wasn't in love. I didn't realize just how cute they were though until I was surrounded by hundreds of them on a beach in San Francisco!

Look at these little guys!


We left the beach, and it was time to get wedding ready! I was so excited to wear the salwar kameez I had custom-made when I was in India, and we spent a lot if time trying to figure out how to wrap my friend's sari, which made me a little happy I was wearing the Indian version of a pantsuit! Not only was it easy to put on, I was also wildly comfortable all night!


The wedding was at the Presidio and kicked off with the baraat, the groom's procession on horseback to the bride, with lots of pit stops for dancing!

Look at all those colors!
The Hindu ceremony was absolutely beautiful and was followed by a cocktail hour, a Christian ceremony, and a reception, complete with Indian food, incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and tons of dancing!


I had so much fun at the wedding and was so happy to be invited!

Sunday was our last day in SF, and we took the day to head to Napa with my friend Steph. We visited two wineries, Mumm (my favorite!), Failla, and Robert Sinskey (my second favorite), and tasting room in Yountville.

Sparkling wine at Mumm


We had lunch in St. Helena (Cook Tavern, amazing food!), stopped at Bouchon for macarons, and then made our way straight to the airport to catch the red-eye home! It was a whirlwind trip that I'm still recovering from but it was so worth it! I love weddings and I love last minute vacations even more.

What's the last spontaneous adventure you've gone on?

Have you ever been to an Indian wedding?

June 12, 2017

36(ish) Hours in Dublin, Ireland

With everything that's been going on lately, I desperately needed to get away so last weekend, The Pilot and I made our way to Dublin.

We had both been to Ireland separately 10 years ago. He to Dublin and me, on a backpacking trip along the coast. I had been in Dublin for about three hours on my last trip so never got the chance to see the city. We landed at about 9 am after a quick flight across the pond.


We had booked an Air B&B the night before at the Jameson Distillery, which turned out to be a great location! We were pretty tired from the flight, so we took a 2-hour nap as soon as we checked in and then headed out for some lunch. We have a lot of friends who have been to Dublin in the last few weeks and all of them highly recommended Queen of Tarts in Temple Bar.

Their recommendations did not disappoint and, after indulging in a delicious lunch and out-of-this-world desserts, we made our way through the city to start exploring.


The whole purpose of this trip was to take my mind off of things so we had no agenda and just wandered the city. We found a free walking tour of Dublin's Northside which wasn't great but gave us the chance to check out Georgian Dublin, which was nice. After the tour, we did some shopping along O'Connell Street and wandered around Temple Bar.


We were anxious to have our first pints of Guinness in Dublin and made our way to The Brazen Head which claims to be Dublin's oldest pub, and while packed with tourists, it was a great place to listen to live music in a mellow environment (despite the crowd) while enjoying a few pints.

After a few hours at the pub, we called it a night and were up bright and early the next morning (thanks, jetlag!). It didn't hurt that we woke up to this incredibly European view!




Our first stop of the day (and the most organized thing we did) was to stop at the Guinness Storehouse.


I had no idea what to expect but this place blew me away. I thought it was just your run-of-the-mill brewery tour but boy was I wrong. Everything about this place is impeccable, from the display of the four ingredients that go into beer to the absolutely fascinating video of how those famous Guinness barrels were made, to the pour-your-own pint demonstration, and finally, the 360-view rooftop bar. I thought we would spend at most an hour at the Storehouse, but we ended up being there for over three hours!


After enjoying our perfectly poured pints and mulling over how it is that Guinness tastes so much better in Ireland, we left and made our way to Temple Bar, exploring a few of Dublin's key sites along the way: Dublin Castle, Dublinia and Christ Church, and St. Patrick's, before settling in for lunch at Gallagher's Boxty House. We both had hearty, traditional Irish stew with soda bread and some locally, craft brewed Jack Smyth beer flights, which is brewed only for the restaurant. The food and beer were delicious and we left with very full bellies after a morning full of Guinness and some hearty Irish food!


After lunch, we wandered around Temple Bar crossing back and forth across the Liffey wandering in and out of little shops. We found an adorable book store where we picked up the Galic translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone!


Eventually, we made our way to Trinity College where I fell in love with Trinity College and never wanted to leave. Seriously, books on books on books on books, I was in heaven!


We left Trinity and made our way to Grafton Street for some shopping and stumbled on Avoca, an adorable shop with a cafe upstairs. It had started raining so we decided to pop upstairs for a tea break but, of course, we couldn't resist the dessert menu! I had sticky toffee pudding with the most decadent rum raisin ice cream and The Pilot had a fudge brownie.


When we left the store, the rain had calmed down (it basically rained on and off the whole day which is pretty typically Irish but it gave us some nice opportunities to take breaks in little, hidden places we might otherwise not have found) and we made our way to St. Stephen's Green. We wandered the grounds of the green for awhile and then did some more wandering around the area before hunting for a place to eat.


At the Guinness Storehouse, I learned that Guinness is the perfect pairing with oysters so I was on a mission to find a place with oysters. We settled on The Bank on College Green, a gorgeous bar with a fantastic food menu and yes, Guinness and oysters. We grabbed some seats at the bar and indulged in way too much Guinness, never enough oysters, fish and chips, Bailey's on the rocks, and orange creme brulee for dessert.

Whoever said that the food in Ireland is terrible is sadly mistaken. Everything we ate was Irish. Everything we ate was delicious. With that meal serving as the perfect cap on our trip to Dublin, we stumbled back to our Air B&B and into bed before an early morning wake up call and a flight back home.

We operated on a no-carb-left-behind trip to Dublin and spent more time eating than anything else, but we walked most of the city and spent some time unplugged and together, which was exactly what we needed. I don't think this will be our last trip to Dublin either. I would have loved to have visited the Jameson and Teeling distilleries, but hey, there's always next time!

What do you think? Have you been to Dublin?

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