2015 Highlights

It wasn’t all bad. Yes, it was clouded by some pretty jarring losses, but it wasn’t all bad. I would hate to think that a year had passed and all I remembered was the bad stuff.

In January, we celebrated a close friend’s wedding and our niece’s seventh birthday party. E also went scuba diving and brought home a big lobster tail for us to share and celebrate his birthday.

In February, we moved to a little place with a yard for Pinto and cut our commutes down to something like a jaunt around the corner.

In March, E moved into a new role at work. And he’s great at it!

jan to march

In April, E’s brother graduated from college (where I also went to school), and we had fun being back in our favorite college town.

In May, we went to Maui! It was such a good trip to relax and recharge and reconnect.

In June, we celebrated three years of marriage. Not only did we celebrate our anniversary, but E’s brother got married, and we had a great time at the wedding with family and friends. And Pinto went to the beach for the first time!

apr to jun

In July, I celebrated Eid with my family and one last time with my dad. And our new niece was born!

In August, I got to hang out with Kate. And buy her wine glasses. It was a travesty that she didn’t have any.

In September, I turned 27.

july to sep

In October, I traveled to Oaxaca on a university alumni trip and we experienced and participated in El Dia de Los Muertos. And it was basically the best thing ever. It would have only been better if E was with me. And Adele released “Hello,” which I haven’t stopped singing at all.

oaxaca

In November, Caitlin, Cassandra and I traveled to the Bay Area to help Caitlin shop for a wedding dress. And I obviously can’t show you the picture, but we had a great weekend! I also helped throw a Harry Potter-themed bridal shower, which was ridiculously fun to plan. Also, another new niece was born! And I started grad school. (The jury is out on whether that’s a highlight or not.) And we ate everything at Thanksgiving.

And here we are in December. Pinto turned three this month. I am getting to see lots of family and friends that I’ve been missing this year. And Disneyland at Christmas exists, which I’ve already experienced twice. My sisters and I took our older nieces and nephews for a family trip and collective Christmas present. Then, I got to go a few days later with my mother-in-law as part of our annual tradition. They were two very different trips, but neither less magical than the other. E and I decorated the tree and are enjoying a month of holiday spirit together after a very long fall with limited together time.

end of year This was such a good exercise. Really. I didn’t know if I would find one good thing in a month, but then I found multiple most months! What were some of your highlights this year?

Books I’m Looking Forward To

So, it might have been a lackluster year for my reading, but I have a big stack of books and a nice long waiting list at the library to get 2016 started off right. Here are some titles I can’t wait to dig into in the new year. Good thing there’s an extra day coming up to read more!

After You by Jojo Moyes

More Jojo Moyes? More Lou? Yes, please!

Sounds Like Me by Sara Bareilles

Sara B. is one of my favorite artists. I have her albums on repeat around my life a lot. Her songs are always written very well, so I expect her book will be great, too.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I bought this book early last year, and I haven’t gotten to it. In the meantime, everyone who has read it has raved. So, this is definitely happening.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This is often recommended if you liked All the Light We Cannot See, and I loved that book, so it made my list. I also got this book earlier this year when Amazon was running it as a Deal of the Day.

Side note: Book Riot has an email alert for what good books are on sale that day. It’s straight to the point and almost always sends a book that is popular or is critically acclaimed.

Do you have any book recommendations for me? I’m looking forward to reading more in the next year!

Book Reviews: February Reads

Well, then, I can’t believe it’s almost the end of February. The month flew by. I haven’t had as many weekends to devote to reading, so I’ve been relying on audiobooks on my commutes.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This is one of our little book club’s picks. A man is given the opportunity to think back on his childhood after attending a family funeral in his hometown. A particular little pond stirs up memories of a beautiful fantasy from his young life and his older friend, Lettie Hempstock. This short little novel was good, but was a little too full of symbolism for me. This was the first Neil Gaiman book I’ve read, and I know he’s quite popular. I hope more of his stories will leave a better impression on me. 3/5

faith

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Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Faith explores one family as they deal with the sexual abuse scandal that plagued the Catholic church a few years ago. The McGanns are extremely devout, save for Sheila, the black sheep, who narrates the story. Her older brother, Art, is the priest accused of child molestation, and her younger brother, Mike, is sure he did it. Sheila is not convinced, so she comes up to see what she can do to help Art clear his name. Their mother remains in denial, and their father is oblivious, in his demential stupor. While each member of the family deals with this shocking accusation, the past unravels opening up a lot of questions and revealing a few answers. This family drama was captivating, but also hard to listen to at times because Haigh never shies away from the raw details. It’s definitely worth a read/listen. 3/5

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State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

I can’t believe it took me so long to read Patchett’s latest novel. I have loved every book I’ve ever read by her, and this was no different. State of Wonder is a modern-day telling of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which I read in high school literature. Dr. Marina Singh has been tasked with retrieving the body of her research partner, Dr. Anders Eckman from the jungles of Brazil, and the even more difficult task of finding Dr. Annick Swenson, who Anders went to find in the first place. Dr. Swenson has been working on groundbreaking fertility research and hasn’t produced anything for her sponsor, so Marina is tasked with finding out more information about her drug research, but it will be difficult, as she has a distinct history with Dr. Swenson. I’ll be honest in saying I was a little concerned that the whole thing would be a rip-off of Conrad. But it really is more than a re-telling. It’s a whole new story that stands on its own. It’s captivating and moves quickly once they make it to the jungle. 4/5

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Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I’ve been doing a good job of incorporating non-fiction into my reading list. Unbroken is the story of Louie Zamperini, the former Olympian who served in the United States Air Force in the Pacific theater during World War II. In an unfortunate turn of events, Zamperini’s plane went down in the Pacific Ocean, and he drifted with his best friend, Captain Alan Philips for over a month, until they were captured by the Japanese. This is when the meat of the story begins. Zamperini was a POW of Japan, but was tortured, beaten, and labored to near death for years, along with many other POWs. The horrors that they went through were unbearable. Zamperini is still alive, at 97, and his story is incredible. The film version is coming out later this year, and I do encourage you to read it before it does. 4/5

Harry Potter Update: I just finished Goblet of Fire and it’s still my favorite! I can’t believe how many little details I had forgotten. I can’t believe I’m over halfway through.  And I can’t believe somebody didn’t slap Ron when he didn’t consider asking Hermione to the Yule Ball until it was too late.

How do you feel about audiobooks?

30 Day Book Challenge Day 14

Day 14: Your favorite book of your favorite author

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

While I love her short stories, I just related so much to her first novel about a family of immigrant parents and their American children. I found it to be very whole and honest. I just loved it. I wish I could say more, but I’m currently in the airport tapping away as quickly as possible before my flight departs for my last work trip of the year. 

30 Day Book Challenge

I’ve been traveling a lot for work, and I’m just getting settled into being back at home, even though I have a few short trips up ahead. Unfortunately, blogging fell to the way side. I do miss it, so I thought I would do the 30 Day Book Challenge that Mandy did last month to get me back in the swing of blogging. Of course, I’m already behind, so I’ll combine the challenge and Day 1 in this post. 

Book 30 Day Challenge

Day 01 – Best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

Day 1: Best book I read last year. I think you all know that I will answer this question with Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility. I hope someone asks me what the best book I read this year was. I think I have a few contenders. 

 

#WeVerb12: Soak

What have you soaked in this year? (Baths, sun, ideas?) How did it affect your mentality?

 This might sound strange, but I think I soaked in the Internet this year. I became a more active participant and a more intent reader on the Internet. I used to simply have my email up and check Facebook occasionally (or more than that). Yes, I blogged, but I really wasn’t so focused on what my content was and what sort of readership I had. This year, I put a lot more effort into blogging. I became a more active participant in a couple of online forums. I added 30 or more blogs to my Reader, and probably post a comment once or twice a day on other blogs. With weverb12, I’ve found even more blogs I like. Blogging is something I do for me, but it certainly is nice to have an audience. As far as my mentality goes, I think I have struck a good balance between blog life and real life. I’ve also found that there are many other people who think like I do, and have certain quirks that I have. That makes me feel less nutty sometimes, and that is comforting. Blogging reminds me to take in all the moments, because writing them down allows me to relive it. 

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#WeVerb12: Toss

“2012 was the last time for ________________.”

I can’t really think of anything that I definitively want to say goodbye to in terms of habits and things. I want to say my long hair, since I have recently cut it and I love it short, but I’m not ready to say I’ll never have long hair again. But, I think I’m ready to stop being obsessed with weddings. I mean, I still really love weddings,  and I’m still recapping ours on Weddingbee. But I’m done with the worrying about every little thing and worrying about how people will feel about us doing this differently or that differently. I don’t think my excitement over weddings will ever be completely gone, especially because I know that many of my friends and family still haven’t gotten married. But, I do know that my excitement will be from an “excitement for them” aspect rather than an “excitement over the little details” aspect. I have toyed with the idea of becoming a day-of-coordinator, but I think it will be quite a while before I’m able to step back so fully into the wedding world. 

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#WeVerb12: Triumph

How were you challenged by a project or goal this year? What did you learn from it?

I am constantly reassessing myself and my goals. First, I had my New Year’s Resolutions and then, I added my 25 Before 25 List, which I should really share my progress on. There was the whole job thing that I shared with you all. I certainly blogged more and found that fulfilling. But in a year of so many ups and a few downs, I don’t know exactly what to say in this moment. I guess the triumph was nothing tangible. It was an acceptance of today. I talked about it a little bit before in my “stay” post. But I still get stumped by the goal to stay in the moment. It’s so easy to get ahead of myself and just lose my mind because it’s not all happening. I have learned that the more tangible goals may lead to the bigger picture ones, and I have learned that I am always going to be working on it. 

I have more tangible goals set out in my 25 Before 25 list for 2013. Some of them terrify me, but most excite me. Ask me this question next year, and I hope to have a very different answer.

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#WeVerb12: Respond

Do you actively listen to your inner voice/conscience? Describe a time this year you heard and responded to it.

This is going to sound kind of nerdy, but I always have some sort of inner dialogue going with myself. I’m always asking myself questions and reasoning answers and solutions out myself. Now, to be honest, most of the time, it’s really just me figuring out if I’m actually going to wear those really cute shoes and if they’re worth buying. But one time that my inner voice really mattered was when I applied for an open position in my office.

There were a few good reasons why I was a good fit, and one big, glaring reason that it wouldn’t work. But, after waffling back and forth and agonizing about it, I told myself, “There is nothing to lose from trying. And I will forever regret this if I don’t give myself the chance.” Once I told myself that, I applied for it. And I did get it, but I think the point really was that I tried.

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Insta-November

I think I’m going to have to devote a post to the iPhone photos I take every month. I’m not great at remembering to take pictures, but when I do, I use my phone. And of course, the ones I want to share with friends go on Instagram. So, here are some fun photos that narrate life this month.

When E and I went to go watch a movie at the Americana mall, they were installing the Christmas tree. It was the first sign that Christmas was coming and I got giddy.

I finally got a pair of leopard flats, and I couldn’t be happier with them. Leopard isn’t going away. And I’m ok with that.

I went to Boston for work last weekend and, besides the actual work day, I got to spend a lot of time hanging out with my friend, H. But I failed to take a picture of us together. We had a yummy Italian dinner in the North End, went shopping on Newbury Street, ate at Trident Booksellers and Cafe and had drinks at the Top of the Hub. We ended our evening at the Island Creek Oyster Bar, where I took this photo of my pink drink called a Biciclette. What a way to feel sophisticated.

It’s hard to tell what the left picture is. But those are my legs occupying the whole row of a Virgin America plane. Unfortunately, my flight out of Boston was at 7AM. Fortunately, no one else wants to fly at 7AM, so I got a row to myself, where I slept and watched Friends and some Bravo shows until I was back in LA. I wish they flew more places, because the service is so nice on Virgin America.

The kids table never gets old at my house for Thanksgiving. Plus, the dessert lives on the kids table!

And to really show that it really is time for Christmas:

I hope you’ve all had a great holiday weekend, and that you’ve recharged for the surge ahead to Christmas and 2013!