Thursday, December 29, 2016

December Reads

Oh my goodness! It's the end of December. This year has been something else. Ups, downs, and super big changes that I just managed to get through (at times). I'm so glad I had the distraction of reading in 2016.

Despite December being a slow reading month, 2016 was a big reading year! I will end this year having read over 57 books. This is a record for me and one I will not likely repeat. I had lots of extra time this year with the move, transitions, unemployment, and deployment. I suspect 2017 will be busier for me.

So, to end this year, here are my 2016 December Reads...

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was a total out of the norm for me. I have never read a science fiction book before but this book was getting all kinds of hype I couldn't ignore. This novel is about physics and multiverses and lots of other things I don't really understand. But despite those "small details", I really liked this book. It was a quick moving, suspenseful story. The writing pulls you in from the get-go and moves very quickly. I recommend this to all readers. Dark Matter is getting a lot of popular reviews and I'm confident most people will enjoy it. It's not life changing or a must read.  It's just an entertaining book. I do think if you are looking to switch things up and fly through a good book, then Dark Matter is perfect. My husband and I buddy read this one for December. He flew through it without being courteous enough to slow down for me. I think having a non-reader do that is a good indication.

Right Under Your Nose by Holly Tierney-Bedord. Short Christmas novellas are sort of my favorite during December. There are a lot of great lesser known authors writing e-books and doing a great job. Right Under Your Nose is a short fiction chick lit story about two best friends who come to the realization they both want a romantic relationship... during Christmas. It was sweet and simple.

Starry Night by Debbie Macomber was a typical choice for me. Debbie Macomber is a popular Christmas story author. While her stories aren't my favorite, I couldn't pass up this book for $1. Starry Night took me much longer than necessary to read. And that's ok, right? I'm not big on cliche love stories and this is a typical boy-meets-girl, they can't stand each other, then they decide they are madly in love, and live happily ever after. I made it through and this is the last book I will read in 2016.

There you have it for December reading ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Monday, December 26, 2016

A White Christmas

Happy Holidays one and all! It's been a few days since I've hopped on the blog and made an update on life. We are currently visiting family and enjoying the Christmas holiday in the frozen tundra. My kids love the weather (aka snow) and being with extended family.

We made it through the "biggest" holiday this deployment. So we get to exhale a little. We are on the downhill side to homecoming. With this nice little break with family, I feel we are refreshed enough to make it to the end with our sanity :)

Here the snow keeps falling... and melting...and falling again. The boys are in their element.  

I guess snow can be fun :)

When the snow gets too cold, then we bake cookies.
It's the likely answer at Christmas, right??

Monday, December 19, 2016

Winter Break Is Here!!

Cheers to all you parents and teachers (and of age students) out there. We finally made it to Winter Break. Few things are more glorious than a much needed break in the middle of the school year. I'm looking forward to closing out 2016. (It has been a challenge.) 2017 is going to be so much better :) To keep the blog light and fluffy, today I'm doing some Q & A!

Three things I frequently forget
Where my keys are
Appointments I don't write down
My childrens' names (I call them each other's name)

Three errands I love to run
Shopping (not food)

*crickets* I dislike errands

Three errands I hate to run
Grocery shopping
Post office

Three famous people I'd like to meet
Jennifer Aniston
Ellen DeGeneres
Michelle Obama

Three famous people I'd like to avoid
Kris Kardashian
Miley Cyrus
Kanye West

Three things I recommend
Drinking recommended water allowance
Going for walks

Three books I loved in the elementary/junior high days
Baby-Sitters Club
Sweet Valley Twins/High

Nancy Drew Files
Three things I always look forward to

Three things I always dread
Hot weather
Cleaning bathrooms

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Playing Along With Secret Santa

Tis the season for blogger exchanges. I can't remember the last time I participated in a Secret Santa type gift exchange. The element of surprise adds some fun suspense.  I don' have anything exciting to share so why not share my recent exchange gift from Beyond Bookish? The Secret Santa blogger/Youtuber exchange was hosted by The Broke and The Bookish which means the gifting was books. Exactly what I love to give and receive! 

There is just something very sweet about mail and wrapped gifts for you when it's deployment time. 
Christmas is probably the loneliest holiday during deployment.
Going through the holiday season makes me mindful of those who are without loved ones permanently. My situation is only temporary.

And the packages really were perfectly wrapped!

When we signed up for the exchange, we could choose what level of gifting we wanted. 
I was in the 1-2 books plus gifts category :) 
Everyone was able to link a book wishlist to their secret santa. 
I was hopeful for a Ruta Sepetys book because I have recently fallen in love with her writing.
I read all her books and now want to own copies for re-reading :)

Girl on the Train was another hopeful.
This book is just too darn popular to get from a library. 
I stopped trying after being on the waitlist for several weeks.
But now it's mine and I can read it whenever I want :)

My additional gifts included lots of bookmarks and chocolate.
I don't have one sturdy bookmark. 
I just use torn paper and bulk mailings. 
I can't be alone, right?

But not anymore, I now own 3 bookmarks that won't go missing so easily.
Unless, my teenager takes them from me. You know she loves to steal all my good stuff. And she was already telling me how perfect the moon bookmark was...for her ๐Ÿ˜’


Friday, December 2, 2016

Busy Days. Chapel Hill. And The 12th Month.

I'm so tired! Life is just whirling around happening and I can barely keep up! My constant struggle when I am working. I love it but I just can't find the perfect work and life balance. Always have and, it looks like, I always will! So is life!

We had the best time last weekend meeting up with my sister-in-law and nieces. They live here in North Carolina too. We drove up to UNC Chapel Hill and explored the Morehead Planetarium. The planetarium is small but the live shows were excellent. And the campus is insanely gorgeous! By far, the prettiest campus I have seen so far. Which let's be honest is few but still number one!

This is The Old Well on campus. If you Google images, UNC Chapel Hill, chances are this will pop up. We walked in a large circle around this site before getting directions right to it. We walked in front of it 2-3 times earlier. Something to laugh about :) The well has special powers to get students good luck and good grades. You must drink from it on the first day of school though! 

The campus is filled with old buildings and lots of trees. The campus is huge and well laid out. 
I have my fingers crossed one of my children go here so I can visit often. Not that they will want me too. So, I probably won't :( At least, I would have an excuse to go walk through the canopy of fall leaves in my sweater and boots with my Starbucks drink :)

I can't believe December is here! How did that happen? After Thanksgiving, life went into hyper speed. It always does! Our local mall is all decked out in Christmas decor. The boys and I went Black Friday window shopping, visited SantaLand, and grabbed a holiday latte.

My goal this year was to be done Christmas shopping by December 1st. I made a valiant effort but fell short. I have sooo much left to buy. *insert crying emoticon* This package is done and ready to be mailed. One down, twenty to go.

We got a tree! This is big because we are deployment status, which means the holidays are filled with mixed emotions. Without completely sounding like Scrooge, I just wish we could skip the whole holiday season. It makes me sad and miss him more. It's my ostrich moment, bury my head, and pretend it is not happening :( But, then you have kids who need consistency and for you to be the adult. So, we got a tree!

It's a fake tree. $25 from the Target store. I'm secretly loving it's pathetic simplicity. It's cute in a kitchy way.

Indulge me a minute with this tree, can you? I walked up to the house on Wednesday and noticed the color had changed on this tree overnight. It went from purple to this incredibly intense red. My kids noticed the same thing on the same day and were equally excited. We kind of like this season called Fall :)

A little snapshot of my night last night. Let's blame classrooms full of middle schoolers. They are quite something for your sanity :) 
Cheers to Friday and a weekend!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

All The Good Books of November

I love a good reading streak! And November was just that! My Read (past tense) pile at month's end looked a little different than what I had planned at the beginning of November. Library due dates get me every time! Most annoying library rule ever! If you want free books, whatcha gonna do?

I started November with the third book of Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban. My son really loves the HP series and I am trying to read them all. I admit Harry Potter is not really my style and I haven't reached fandom...yet. However, it is fun to have a mutual knowledge/experience with your child. Harry Potter is a fantasy story about students attending Wizardry school. Each book follows the respective school year Harry Potter attends. Book 3 was much better than Book 1 & 2. I hear each Harry Potter book gets better and better, so I'm staying the course! Plus, I'm hoping for a little reward called Harry Potter World after book 7!

#2 Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys- After I fell in love with Sepetys last month, I knew I needed to read all of her novels. I haven't been so obsessed with an author is years and years. Sepetys maintains the same standard across the board which is impressive. Out of the Easy is a young adult historical fiction set in 1950s New Orleans. The main character is navigating a tough life situation dealing with the crime world and her desire to move beyond her current situation. I like Sepetys' story telling. Out of the Easy was a little slow at times so it wasn't my favorite. However, as a Ruta Sepetys fan, I'm glad I read this book. I would recommend Salt To The Sea before Out Of The Easy if you want to check out Ruta Sepetys.

My third book of November, Killing The Rising Sun by Bill Reilly & Martin Dugard, was a very informative nonfiction book. I'm really glad I read this book. Most people have only positive things to say for Bill O'Reilly's "Killing" books. They are written in a way that makes history come alive and relevant in this culture. Killing The Rising Sun is about the World War 2 conflict between Japan and the United States. Uncovering the misconceptions and dives deeper into the issues, Killing the Rising Sun ends with the total surrender of Japan to Allied Forces. The book brings greater understanding for both sides. My husband and I buddy read this book in November. As a Marine, he could have powered through this book in days. I slowed us down quite a bit. This book is super intense (violent and detailed). Every few pages I had to stop and process what I had read. Despite those intense descriptions, Killing The Rising Sun was so so good. I recommend this one to every American!

November reading was all about quality over quantity. Now I get to start my annual Christmas book-a-thon in December. This is my month where I only read cheesy Christmas novels where the characters end up getting what they always wanted. And it snows :) I'm so excited!

Linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books. Click the link for book reviews and recommendations galore!

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Zoo in the Forest

I am learning slowly that North Carolina has its own way of doing things. Putting a zoo in a forest would be one of those things. I had no idea how this was going to work considering animals, such as elephants, rhinoceros, and flamingos, don't typical live in woodsy habitats. After our visit to the North Carolina Zoo, I'm going to trust it works! I was impressed with the zoo in the forest.

My kids loved it too! Any zoo or aquarium is sure to be a hit with them. The North Carolina Zoo is set up to be humane and accommodating to the animals. The scenery was nice and the animals were active.

It's always much more fun to observe animals when they are out and about.

The small zoo feel was a cinch to navigate. We left all the map stuff to the brains of the family.

Although, the distance is built into lots of hills. One can't help but need a little rest here and there ๐Ÿ˜…

The backdrop against fall foliage just might be the best part about the NC Zoo!

Or these crazy pink birds.

Or this big guy. It's hard to pick just one thing that made this small zoo rank pretty darn close to the big leagues aka San Diego!


Friday, November 11, 2016

A New Job. Red Cups. And A Holiday Weekend.

I think the best part of this post title is I got a job! I cannot tell you how excited I am to be among people and working again. I'm back in the school setting on Monday. Can't wait.

A big Thank You!! to Starbucks for giving the people what they want :) Holiday red cups.My first drink of the season: Caramel Brรปlรฉe Latte. Did you indulge on debut day?

My To Read pile changed a little this week since libraries have due dates. #annoying 
Right now, I'm reading Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. Next up, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

The kids had two days off from school this week. One on Election Day and second for Veteran's Day. I pulled the family card and took the kids exploring. Tuesday we found yummy decadent crepes and shopping. 

America elected a new president on Election Day.
(I did not see that coming.)

Thursday was the Marine Corps 241st birthday. We usually celebrate with a birthday ball when the Marine is stateside.  Deployment is the off years when we just look at old pictures.

That boy sure has a lot of bling, doesn't he? 

Today is Friday, which is Veteran's Day. Thank you to all who serve or have served to protect our freedoms! We sure miss our service member today :( Shout out to these 3 kiddos who make their own sacrifices to support their dad and our country. They handle it pretty well!

Wishing you a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pumpkin Swap Goodies

Tis the season! The season of goodies and giving. The Great Pumpkin Swap hosted by Kristin and Rebecka embraces both of those things. I'm not a big swapper participant but I do love a good swap. Deployment is a great time for me to get involved because receiving mail is always a mood booster.

It's fun to participate as a giver too. I like to go out and find goodies to send to my partner. Another bonus to participating in swaps is the personal element. You get a chance to really get to know another blogger outside of their blog posts. I think every swap partner I've had is someone I still connect with through their blogs or social media. Blogging is a fun community to be a part of.

Today is the day all the swappers of the Pumpkin Swap link up to show what was received. That's always a fun day, right? I took a handful of pictures so I will let them do the talking :) My partner was  Kristin of Stuff, Things, Etc. We were able to interact through our blogs and occasional emails to further those blog conversations. It was very nice because we found we had some key things in common. It was a nice support :)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Airlie Gardens Wilmington

What is more Southern than a live oak with Spanish moss?

Swans swimming in a pond?

Or fountains and Italian sculptures in overgrown gardens?

I think I can check them all of the list after my visit to Airlie Gardens in Wilmington.

This is one of the major attractions in Wilmington. 
The volunteer who so graciously escorted me around on her golf cart told me this property used to be owned by a railroad investor, Pembroke Jones.
I was quite impressed because the grounds covers 10 acres and is quite extravagantly landscaped for private property.  

I'm sure sculptures like this have been added since it was sold to New Hanover county.

As you can see, there are pergolas, fountains, and lakes which were created when it was private property. 

There are lots of flowers, 
as there should be in a garden :)
Azaleas...Wilmington's claim to fame...
Azalea capital of the world!
(I have noticed NC likes to dub themselves the capital of the world or best in the world for many many things. I want to know how they actually know that.)

The butterfly house only had 2 butterflies in there. 
All that space for 2 little butterflies.
There were also 2 little lizards which could be quite telling.
I don't know what lizards eat but I hope it's not butterflies!

I going to bring your attention back to the Airlie Oak tree. 
I've never seen such tall oak trees before. 
Did I tell you the tree is over 400 years old?

Isn't that amazing?
What a perfect place for a wedding.
Maybe I should divorce my husband, so we can get re-married here.
He doesn't think I'm funny when I suggest that.
No matter how great the wedding location is.

Now, this is something I envision when I think of the South!