Thursday, January 29, 2015

Music I've Been Loving Lately 2

2015 has welcomed album announcements from some of my favorite bands. So far The Decemberists and The Lone Bellow have exceeded my high expectations. Although I'd recommend listened to their entire albums, since every song is worth sharing, I thought I'd try to choose favorites that maybe you haven't heard yet. The other songs on the list have all been stuck in my head at one point or another this past month.

The Lake by The Decemberists

Watch Over Us by The Lone Bellow

Elastic Heart by Sia (I think a lot of people have found this video weird, but I absolutely love it.)

Von by Sigur Ros (Not new but definitely a top contender this month. It's been the perfect song to fit my mood lately.)

Earned It by The Weeknd (Yeah this is from 50 Shades of Grey. The soundtrack for the movie has begun to look like another Twilight style gold nugget in what might possibly be a horrendous film, but we shall see. I've always really liked The Weeknd's musical style and this song immediately jumped out at me. It's sexy and it knows it.)

What have been your musical obsessions lately?

-S

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge

When I was thinking about my reading goals for 2015 I came across Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge. The challenge really seems to focus on reading from a diverse range of authors, genres, and cultures that maybe one wouldn't normally choose to read on their own. I love the idea of reading more diversely and putting more thought into type of books I choose to read.


A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25: White Teeth by Zadie Smith

A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65: Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter

A collection of short stories: Tenth of December by George Saunders

A book published by an indie press: The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ: Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own: The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

A book that takes place in Asia: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

A book by an author from Africa: The Stranger by Albert Camus

A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

A microhistory: Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast

A YA novel: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

A sci-fi novel: Dune by Frank Herbert

A romance novel: Rule by Jay Crownover

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A book that is retelling of a classic story: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

An audiobook: More Than This by Patrick Ness

A collection of poetry: Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

A book that someone else has recommended to you: The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart

A book that was originally published in a different language: The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind: Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isobel Greenberg

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure: Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

A book published before 1850: Candide by Voltaire

A book published this year: One More Thing by B. J. Novak

A self-improvement book: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

I'm really excited about this list of books. If possible, I tried to choose from books I already own and haven't read first, although there were still quite a few categories that nothing I had fit into. I'm hoping to read more than one book in each category, but here's what I've chosen for now. I've already finished three audiobooks this year so I'll definitely have that category covered at least. As for the "a book published this year" category, I actually made this list closer to the start of January and hadn't done any research on books being published in 2015 yet. Hopefully I'll be able to find a book that's actually being published this year to swap with One More Thing.

So what do you think? Are you planning on participating in any reading challenges this year?

-S

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Be Open to Art


I don't typically spend time reading the comment section on Youtube because more often than not it's just a bunch of people saying mean things to each other. However I did find a comment on the video above that I just had to share.

The first person commented asking, "am I the only one that thinks this is some incredibly ugly dancing?" to which one person wrote this amazing response, "I feel like it's very naive of you to say "art must be pretty". If you feel that for you to enjoy art, you want it to be aesthetic, then fine, thats perfectly valid, but to disqualify all other forms of art or artistic expression by saying it isn't art because it isn't "pretty" is really narrow minded and truthfully pretty insensitive. Art is supposed to elicit an emotional response. Emotions aren't always pretty. Just because you don't feel something in response to a dance or a song or whatever it might be, doesn't mean that it isn't someone's art. Art basically has no rules or boundaries. As an artist myself, I don't care if you don't like what I create, just don't disregard, devalue or minimize it due to your personal preconceptions about art. That's almost like saying a woman isnt a woman if she isn't pretty."

Pretty powerful words.

-S

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Books of 2014 Wrap Up

2014 was quite the year in books. This was the first year I didn't have any required reading for school so all the books were chosen for my own reading pleasure. Although I didn't quite reach my Goodreads Challenge goal of 35 books for the year, I did manage to finish 33 books within the twelve month time. I also read about 1000 more pages than I did in 2013 (which is pretty damn awesome if I do say so myself).


In order by date finished the 33 books are as followed.

  1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  2. Night by Elie Wiesel
  3. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
  4. Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau
  5. 101 Secrets for Your Twenties by Paul Angone
  6. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  7. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
  8. Breakfast at Tiffany's and Other Stories by Truman Capote
  9. Blankets by Craig Thompson
  10. Surprised by Joy/The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
  11. The Bungalow by Sarah Jio
  12. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
  13. Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
  14. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
  15. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón 
  16. Seeking Her by Cora Carmack
  17. Finding It by Cora Carmack
  18. The Circle by Dave Eggers
  19. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  20. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  21. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  22. Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi
  23. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  24. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
  25. The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio
  26. Good-Bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson
  27. The Ticking by Renée French
  28. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  29. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  30. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  31. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling
  32. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  33. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde



Four out of the 33 were graphic novels (does Hyperbole and a Half count because I totally counted it). Two of them were audiobooks (Game of Thrones and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me). Two of them were novellas. Eight out of the 33 were non-fiction books, which makes 25 out of the 35 fictional stories. I also reread The Fault In Our Stars by John Green and Finding It by Cora Carmack this year.

It's incredibly hard to choose a favorite out of all the books. If I had to choose, my favorite fiction book of the year would be The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and my favorite non-fiction book would be Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. Both books went above and beyond all of my expectations. The Shadow of the Wind was beautifully written and kept me guessing the entire time. The story exquisitely mingled a world of books, mystery, love, and murder on an old Spanish backdrop. I can't wait to continue with the series this year.

Although I managed to read a number of really funny non-fiction books this year, including Yes Please and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, neither of them topped Hyperbole and a Half. At times I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants, but it also went beyond laughter into a place that I connected to so deeply it felt like Brosh was drawing my own life. Who knew someone drawing stories about their own life could be so uplifting and absolutely hilarious? Actually I'm sure a lot of people knew that but if you haven't read Hyperbole and a Half yet go check it out.

For 2015 I once again set a Goodreads Challenge goal of 35 books. You can follow all of my progress and reviews on Goodreads. Now I better go get started. Happy reading!

-S

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015!

It's a new year! After a very low key New Years Eve spent watching The Vampire Diaries with one of my closest friends and way too much food, I welcomed 2015 with Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve and a glass of sparkling wine. My new year began in a completely different way as 2014 began and it just felt right.


The promise of a new year always excites me. For certain reasons I'm not a big fan of resolutions, but I do love setting goals. Maybe most people see those being the same thing but I don't. Although I love setting goals all year round and don't find it necessary to wait until the start of a year to change parts of my life, I do find it prime time for assessments. So much can happen and change in a years time. 2014 wasn't a jam packed year for me, but looking back did reveal more than I expected. I look forward to seeing what 2015 holds.

I'm sure if I looked back at my goals for 2014, this list would have some overlaps. This is what I like about goals instead of resolutions. Goals do not have to be reached in a certain amount of time. They can be larger, less specific ideas you wish to fulfill. Goals focus more on achievements rather than being negative about the life you're currently living. Goals can be anything you want them to be, endless possibilities.


  • Nail down a career direction and specific steps to help get me there
  • Make more friends and talk to people more often
  • Be nicer
  • Make more money (make it happen!)
  • Be active every day
  • Stop worrying about so much of my life and let it happen
  • Enjoy nature, explore, marvel in it
  • Push myself to create
  • Make more to-do lists (and stick to them)
  • Blog at least once a week
  • Photograph more, maybe partner with someone to find a way to develop skills
  • Find a mentor (possibly a life coach?)
  • Write in my journal more often
  • Don't watch or read anything I'm not feeling invested or interested in
  • Focus on one thing at a time, don't interrupt the task at hand to start something new (at least when it comes to personal time. For example reading part of a page and then stopping to start a TV show and then stopping after 10 minutes to watch a Youtube video. This has seriously gotten to be my worst habit.)
Hopefully this list of goals will help guide me through next year in a positive and healthy way. When I'm feeling out of sorts I can always come back here to get myself back on track. Happy 2015!!

Are you a resolution and/or goal maker? What was on your list this year?

-S

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Putting Off Writing: An Update

You know when you have a schedule and you miss one day of doing your designated task? Missing that day turns into missing two days, then three days, and then before you know it you've missed four weeks. Well that's sort of what happened with this blog. I kept telling myself I needed to write a blog post and that I would do it once I got home from work, or I would get it done the next day. Basically, I just kept putting it off until I no longer felt like I could do it at all. But here I am, finally sitting down and forcing myself to write. Since it's been so long I thought I'd start with a general update of what's been happening in my life lately.

The weekend before Thanksgiving I went to Chicago to visit one of my best friends since high school. She's currently in a graduate program at Northwestern University and lives in the cutest studio apartment. I caught a ride down to Grand Rapids with my Grandma and her husband and then took the train from there. I love taking the train. If I could travel everywhere by train I totally would.


The train left GR at 7:45 our time (which I nearly missed) and arrived in Chicago around 11 their time. Train rides are so relaxing and watching the sun rise out the window made for a beautiful start to the day. Once in Chicago, we hit the ground running. I was actually surprised at how many things we managed to do without really planning ahead (although Gabby and I rarely set plans when we're together). Friday night (the day I arrived) we went to a Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. show which turned out to be way more amazing than I think either of us expected. Saturday we hit up this comedy show that was supposed to be a live satirical newspaper. It was hilarious and I would definitely recommend it to those who love that sort of thing (think SNL).


Sunday we decided to go shopping downtown. It was pouring rain that day, but we still managed to enjoy the beauty of the city. The fog near the top of the buildings looked really cool and with all the Christmas lights there was a hazy glow on the streets. I even got to meet up with an old friend that I hadn't seen in a while. Monday I spent some time exploring the city by myself while Gabby was in class. I spent some time in a used book store, a Metropolis coffee shop (great coffee by the way), and navigated the Red Line to a Reckless Records store that I didn't find too impressive. Overall it was a great trip. I'm very grateful to Gabby for being a wonderful host and a good tour guide.

For Thanksgiving my family all went out to my Grandma's for dinner. There wasn't as many people as we've had in the past. It's weird getting older and having all the families split up. I'm thankful for the ones who still find the time to come together. But most importantly, I'm thankful for food. I love Thanksgiving food. I could eat Thanksgiving type meals all year round, but then it probably wouldn't be as good and I would definitely be fat. I also got to spend some time with my friend Sam who was in town from Atlanta. It was nice having friends around who I could actually hang out with again. Friends, just another aspect of my life that I'm forever thankful for.

In the last two week or so we've also been busy putting up Christmas trees (yes, plural). And by we I mean mostly my mom. She's a tree decorating machine. She has her methods and to be honest I think the rest of us are a little afraid to interfere. Growing up my brother and I received ornaments every year from my grandparents, as well as ones from other family and friends. Since we have so many we're able to have a tree full of ornaments on every floor of the house. The basement and second floor both have fake trees and the main floor living room always holds the real tree. I feel very thankful and blessed to be able to have all three trees when some families can't afford one. It's never something I try to take for granted. This year's tree is definitely one of the prettiest trees we've ever had.



You can always tell which part of the tree is decorated by my ornaments because most of them are ballet related. The section shown below didn't even have all of them on it yet. Pink, glittery ballerinas all over the place.


My dad and I decided to make meatloaf and mashed potatoes last week. We followed this recipe from Paula Deen and it was delicious. The recipe was super simple to make and took no time at all. We did however leave the mashed potato whipping to my mom's expertise.




Even looking at these pictures is making me want more.


But I've really spent most of my time watching Buffy, reading, and defrosting my car. Yup that's my trunk covered in ice. Ma vessel's intakin' water matey. Arg! We still haven't been able to figure out exactly where all the water is coming in but hopefully we can get it resolved. The car is pretty old so it's not worth investing too much more into it at this point. I'm just hoping we can find a solution without having to take it in anywhere.


Overall this past four weeks or so have been busy and wonderful. I've loved having things to do and plans to make. My mom and I went Christmas shopping for lady's night downtown last week and I've slowly been chipping away at my gift list. I think I've come up with some really good gifts this year for family and friends (fingers crossed). Even the weather has been surprisingly nice lately with temperatures up into the 40's and no snow up until yesterday. It doesn't seem like winter in northern Michigan but that's exactly how I like it.

-S