Friday, May 30, 2014

Book Club Friday-- Beautiful Ruins and Before I Go To Sleep.

GoodReads Synopsis:  The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.  And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot-searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.  What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion-along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.

My Thoughts:  This was probably my least favorite book of all 32 I've read this year.  It was the most convoluted and meandering story.  An utterly depressing read with no redeeming end made this one very difficult for me to get through.  Eventually, I just forced myself to forge ahead so I could be done.

And since I don't want to leave you with just this sour note, I want to share one of the best books I've read this year... 
GoodReads Synopsis'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me...'  Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love — all forgotten overnight.  And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.  Welcome to Christine's life.

My Thoughts:  Wow, what a crazy ride!  This was one of those books that left me reeling for a while in a very good way.  I kind of reminds me of the movie Memento, which was also a crazy story.  This one had so many twists and turns.  Just when you think you've gotten it figured out, then another curveball gets thrown.  Is Ben good or bad?  Does Dr. Nash have an ulterior motive?  What really happened to Christine??  When all is revealed in the end, it wasn't a huge surprise.  But it was very satisfying.  I 100% recommend this book if you like a psychological thriller.  Five stars!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sand and Snow and Tequila.

I finally watched this week's episode of The Bachelorette this morning while I was recovering from CrossFit getting ready for work.  Andi definitely has some quirks ("shut up!" and "no, stop!" come to mind...), but I still really like her.  And it seems so far like she's got some quality guys.

Getting the first one-on-one date of the season is Eric Hill.  And I must admit that it's really sad to watch Eric and Andi connect knowing that he's no longer with us.  The two of them seem really cute together.  He's obviously very exciting given all his travels and his adventures.  
But all I could think about during his date was that he's dead.  When he was talking about his goals and what he wants to accomplish in his life, he seemed so full of energy and excitement.  But of course, we all know that he didn't get to see every country in the world.  It breaks my heart to watch.

Speaking of things that are hard to watch... this group date.  Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive, but I really didn't like the stripping group date.  It was just so raunchy and unnecessary.  Oh, but it's "for charity," which apparently makes everything okay.  And Andi has her friends (hello Sharleen and weird dog-loving-girl) come and "judge" the guys?  Um, do I want my girlfriends to watch my boyfriend(s) get naked?  No.  No, I do not.  But it's for "a good cause"!  Don't care. Do they really not know how to raise money without getting people naked? 
Unfortunately for Andi, the stripping was the less eventful portion of the evening.  Poor Craig got totally hammered to the point of complete embarassment-- even jumping into the pool fully clothed.  Andi did not appreciate this, and it put a damper on the rest of the evening.
Fortunately for our bachelorette, next up is the one on one date with Farmer Chris to save the day.  They spend their date at the Santa Anita Park smelling like betting on horses and watching the races.  Farmer Chris seems to be a very solid, very sweet man.  He's exactly the antithesis of Craig, which makes Andi very happy.  Happy enough to give him the first kiss of the season during their private concert.
At the pre-rose ceremony cocktail party, Craig tries desperately to make up for his behavior on the group date with a self-written song.  I did start to feel like maybe she'd give him another chance, but alas.  Craig is on his way home along with the firefighter and the pro golfer (don't ask me their names-- I have no idea).
I still have no clear favorite.  If I didn't know it wasn't Eric, he'd probably be at the top of my list, but alas...  Like Andi, I need some more time to figure out who's my favorite.

Do y'all have a favorite guy yet?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Club Friday-- The Hundred Foot Journey.

GoodReads Synopsis:  Born above his grandfather's modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumiere, a small village in the French Alps.  The boisterous Haji family takes Lumiere by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restaurant opposite an esteemed French inn and restaurant, that of the famous chef Madame Mallory, and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restaurant, and a slew of new adventures.  The Hundred-Foot Journey is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires. A testament to the inevitability of destiny, this is a fable for the ages-- charming, endearing, and compulsively readable.

My Thoughts:  I appreciate this book a lot more now than I did when I was reading it.  It's one of those that grows on you as you think back on it.  The book reads very much like a memoir, and it wasn't until about halfway through that I realized that it was fiction. It was a little slow to get into, but once it got going, I really enjoyed it.  At only 256 pages, this was a very quick read.  I particularly loved the story once he got to Paris, and the ending was very touching.  I'm really looking forward to the movie late this summer!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Three Years.

Three years ago today, I walked into the Fort Worth Stockyards with Rachel not knowing that my world was about to change and that I was about to meet the love of my life. 
It didn't take me long that weekend to wonder if perhaps we were heading for forever.  Turns out I was right!  
It's hard to believe that it's been three years since we met! On one hand, it seems like we've known each other forever, but it also feels like it was only yesterday.

Happy anniversary, Donny!  I'm so glad God put our paths on a collision course that day.  I love you! 


And while we're celebrating anniversaries, I should wish a happy anniversary to our wonderful friends Carson and Katie-- who got married on the same day we met.  It was a great day all around!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bachelorette is Back!

I'm pretty excited for Andi's season of The Bachelorette!  I'm just hoping that she doesn't fall victim to the curse of being one that I love as a contestant but who becomes totally annoying to me as the Bachelor(ette)...
The guys that the show gathered for Andi actually seemed to be a pretty decent group!  (Far better than Des's group...)  There were, of course, some weirdos right off the bat.  Like Dr. Jason who told her that his special power was diagnosing people just by sight-- "I think you have a fever because you look pretty hot."  Boy, aren't you clever... 
Let's also talk about Brett, who seemed very gay to me.  And it wasn't just the fact that he's a hairdresser, but his mannerisms and speech.  Was I the only one?  And who steals a lamp from their hotel as a gift?
The guy who really impressed me was Marquel. A cookie tasting?? Oh yes, please.
I did respect that Andi didn't let Chris Bukowski (formerly known as "Angry Chris" from Emily's season) come to the party.  She was absolutely right that it wasn't fair.  He could have applied or gone through the producers just like everyone else in the beginning, but he didn't.  Adios, Angry Chris.

Pretty soon, it's time for Andi to send some poor souls to the curb.  Among those getting the axe are all three of the long-haired fellas (seriously-- get a haircut) and "Anal with an M" Emel.  
All in all, it was a solid beginning to what promises to be the most dramatic season ever!

Did y'all have any favorites from the night?  No spoilers please!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Weekend Recap.

I can't believe it's already Monday. Boy did this weekend fly by!  Friday, I cut out of work early and went to the gym to do the WOD on my own.  I definitely like going to the class better than doing the WOD by myself.  I get so much more out of it and push myself harder in the Crossfit box with the coaches than I do when it's just me.  But I did it!  It was harder than it looked, but I made it through and then came home to relax.
Friday night we had dinner with my parents then went to see Million Dollar Arm, which was so good!  It was better than I had anticipated-- funny and sweet and tender with a happy ending.  I loved it.
I was also presented with this pillow that Donny had made for me!  He had bought it to save for Christmas but couldn't wait that long.  It cracks me up, and I love it so much!  (It's also fantastically fluffy and great for napping.)
Saturday, I tried so hard to finish Inferno.  But it was so slow and so tedious-- definitely my least favorite of all the books in the Robert Langdon series.  I didn't end up finishing it until this morning.
I did get to watch the Yankees beat the Pirates, which was a nice turn around from the slump that they had been in.
Saturday night, we had a barbecue get together with our Bible Fellowship class.  I honestly wasn't very excited about going out and being social that night, but we ended up having a great time.
Sunday, we went to church, came home to relaxing naps, and then I worked on my book while Donny went to see Neighbors.  He said it was funny but didn't seem to love it very much.  I watched some of the Billboard Music Awards and realized that I'm old.  I didn't know half of the people that performed or presented or won awards.  A few other thoughts...
Katy Perry's show looked like the inside of Lisa Frank's imagination.
John Legend is amazing.
Michael Jackson is dead-- why is his hologram at the BBMAs?
I didn't stick around to watch much more (I had had enough when Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood started to perform) because it was getting late and already past my bedtime.  Speaking of which...
While I'm so excited for a new season of the Bachelorette, I'm very disappointed that the premiere doesn't start until 9:30pm!  So much for our premiere party tonight.  Can't wait for this season though!

Hope you all had a great weekend!
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Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Club Friday-- A House in the Sky.

GoodReads Synopsis:  As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. At the age of nineteen, working as a cocktail waitress in Calgary, Alberta, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each adventure, went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia—“the most dangerous place on earth.” On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.  Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda converts to Islam as a survival tactic, receives “wife lessons” from one of her captors, and risks a daring escape. Moved between a series of abandoned houses in the desert, she survives on memory—every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity—and on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark, being tortured.  Vivid and suspenseful, as artfully written as the finest novel, A House in the Sky is the searingly intimate story of an intrepid young woman and her search for compassion in the face of unimaginable adversity.

My Thoughts:  This book was both very boring and very fascinating.  It took her almost 200 pages to get to her kidnapping, so the first half was just basically about her travels across the world.  Snooze.  But once she got to the kidnapping, it obviously got more interesting.  I would've loved to hear more about what she knows now was happening with her family trying to get the ransom together.  There was a little about this, but not much.  But her story is horrifying and made my heart just ache for her.  I just kept clinging to the knowledge that she escaped and that I know she's really okay now.  In fact, she seems to have re-acclimated back to normal life very well and has even started a foundation to help Somali women and girls.  I wouldn't say to run out and pick up this book unless you're interested in the topic or memoirs in general.  It was good, not fantastic.  Four stars.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Current Loves.

Since I haven't been blogging much recently, I haven't had a chance to talk about what I'm loving lately!

First up are the Myron Bolitar books by Harlan Coben.  Since I finished reading all of Michael Connelly's books last year, I've been wanting to find another author/character to fall in love with.  And I definitely have found that with these books!  They're almost nothing like Michael Connelly's books other than they're mysteries.  But I love the characters and the writing by Harlan Coben.  The main character in these books is Myron Bolitar, a sports agent with a quick wit.  They're hilarious books while also suspenseful and intriguing.  I just finished up #3 in the series, Fade Away, and I didn't know who the bad guy was until right before it was revealed-- the sign of a great mystery!  I can't wait to read all the rest.

I'm also loving this Springtime Creamy Pesto Pasta recipe from the blog Against All Grain.  It's 100% paleo, grain-free, dairy-free, and completely delicious!  I was a little nervous about it as I was making it, but I couldn't believe how good it turned out.  It was a little bit of work, but I think it was very much worth it.  If you're looking for some delicious paleo (or grain-free or dairy-free) receipes, her blog and cookbook are a gold mine!
Photo from Against All Grain

And speaking of delicious paleo recipes... these Fluffy Little Almond Flour Pancakes from The Nourishing Home are quickly becoming one of my favorites.  I've made them twice now, and they're AMAZING.  The key to getting them super fluffy is the blender!  Who knew??

I've found the perfect spring/summer nail color! It's Essie Bachelorette Bash, a beautiful fuchsia pink.  LOVE.

I've never been one to wear anything super fancy on my lips.  Some chapstick or lipgloss and I'm set.  But I'm starting to play a little bit more, and so I bought the MAC Pro Longwear Lip Pencil in Staunchly Stylish the other week.  And I must say that I'm loving it.  It's a great color-- just a little darker than my normal lip color, and it LASTS.  I've been pairing it with Buxom Full-On Lip Polish in Dani (to cool the tone down a bit), and it's perfect!

And finally, I'm loving the Farewell to Cristina on Grey's Anatomy.  Cristina has always been my favorite character, and while I'm sad to see her go, I love the way they're finishing her story.  I never liked her with Owen, so I'm glad that that roller coaster is going to end.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My First Few Days of Crossfit.

Yesterday, I started Crossfit. I was really anxious about it based on its (well-earned) reputation of being super intense.  But despite my nervousness, I was up and at the box at 5:30am.  Yes, 5:30am...  I definitely prefer morning workouts to evening workouts, but that's WAY early.  But, it was the only morning option that still got me to work on time, so I did it.

Day 1 actually turned out not to be so bad.  The beauty of early morning workouts is that there aren't many people there.  I was the only new person there, so I got the benefit of having one-on-one training most of the time.  He taught me how to do proper back and front squats during the strength portion then we got to the WOD ("workout of the day").  Yesterday, it was to do as many rounds as possible in 7 minutes of 7 handstand pushups (of which I did exactly zero), 7 box jumps (where you literally jump onto a box), and 7 front squats with the barbell from the ground (not racked).  The trainer had me get (mostly) inverted for the handstand pushup portions and stay there for a 7-count before moving on to the rest.  I made it through three full rounds plus some!
I got home super amped up and excited about my workout.  As the day progressed, I got more and more sore, but it wasn't too horrible until late in the day.  Obviously my legs are sore with all those weighted squats, but it's really my shoulders/neck (where the weighted barbell rested during back squats) that's the most tender today.  

This morning, I was back up and at the box at 5:30am, and today there were only four people.  Three beasts dudes and me plus the trainer.  The WOD didn't look too bad when it was on the board, but it as I'm learning, the board is a big fat liar.  As many rounds as possible in 30 minutes of a 400m run (ignore the word "sprint") while carrying a medicine ball then five rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push ups, then 15 burpees.  Yes, a 400m run, 25 pull-ups, 50 push ups, and 75 burpees is one round.  Kill. Me. Now.
My goal was to make it through one full round (with heavily-assisted pull ups), which I did at about the 26 minute mark.  So what does the trainer say?  "You've got time to do another 400m!"  Um, excuse me?  I want to die, and you want me to go run??  But you know what?  I did it!  Well, I ran for a bit then walked for a while then ran for another hot second and walked the rest of the way.  The whole time I was out there (plus all through the strength rounds inside), the trainer was at the box yelling after me and cheering for me and telling me I could do it.

There's no way I would've made it through (or even attempted) the final 400m without the encouragement of the trainer.  I was ready to be done after I finished my single round, but he pushed me just a little bit harder, and I did it!  

I left feeling absolutely exhausted and like I just wanted to lie down and sleep, but I also felt like a conquerer. In the last two days, I've worked harder than possibly any workout I've ever done on my own at the gym. And that's the beauty of Crossfit-- they help you get more out of yourself than you could get on your own. Everyone is pushing each other and wanting each other to succeed and do just a little more.  So you do.  And everyone gets better that way.  

It's kind of amazing.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day Weekend.

Like most people, we spent yesterday with my mom. In what's becoming tradition, we grilled out and had the whole gang over to my parents' house. Delicious food and good times with family made it a great day.
Other than Mother's Day, it was a pretty low-key weekend for us.  I finished another book, staying up until after 1am Saturday night to finish it because it was so good.
Saturday, we also watched August: Osage County, and it was possibly the most depressing movie I've ever seen.  If you want to watch a family be dysfunctional for two hours, have at it.  I was very disappointed.

How was your weekend??

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