Friday, November 10, 2017

Bel Canto Review

Happy Friday! I finished this book a long time ago but I just never got around to writing my review! So here it is, my review of Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. 

Bel Canto is a wonderful novel, loosely based around true events, that explores thought provoking ideas in a very heartwarming way. The book opens with a dinner party being taken hostage in a South American country that remains unnamed. The suspense of the hostage situation continues throughout the book as the reader guesses what is going to happen at each new turn. As the plot progresses and the reader gets to know the different characters, the ideas Patchett explores in the book begin to stand out and they stick with the reader long after the last page of the novel.

One of my favorite things about the novel is how well the reader gets to know all the different characters. Patchett gives a very well rounded view of most of the characters, even the more minor ones. Their different back stories and feelings about their situation are explored, allowing the reader to make a connection with all the characters, captor or prisoner. The lines of good and bad start to blur as the reader gets to know the different characters and their personalities, and the reader can form their own opinions about the characters.

As the hostage situation continues in the story, it becomes clear that no matter what side of an issue the characters are on, they are all simply people. Captors and prisoners become friends, people without a common language learn to communicate, and life continues. Patchett shows how the issues and ideals we hold so strongly to dissolve as you  get to know someone, and you are able to see who the person truly is. The things about our society we hold onto don't matter in the long run; as long as we are kind to each other we will find meaning in our lives. The setting of the book highlights this concept and the reader is able to see how the characters start to change in their actions towards one another.

The final part of the novel I really loved was how as the prisoners waited to see what their fate would be, the reader sees them releasing what is out of their control and beginning to truly appreciating the small things. A turn in the weather that brings sun instead of clouds, a short walk outside in the grass, or something new and interesting to eat brings them joy like it never had before. We see the characters coming to the realization that not matter what their situation in life, there is always something to be grateful for. 

The only thing I didn't enjoy about the book was the epilogue. There was no indication of how much time had elapsed and the story line for the characters involved seemed abrupt and out of place. After such a fantastic ending to the rest of the novel, the epilogue completely changed gears and I had to read it a few times to really understand what was happening. Even the characters seemed surprised at what they were doing now after the rest of their story line. It seemed like Patchett was trying to give the story closure but it ended up feeling rushed and like it was tacked on at the end. 

Overall, I thought the novel was fantastic and inspiring with the concepts that were covered. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I feel like if I read it again I would get so much more out of it. I gave the novel a 5 on Goodreads and I would definitely recommend it!

P.S. the tea of the day is citrus green tea ^_^

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Weekly Happiness #5

Happy Sunday! This week flew by and I can't believe it is already Sunday again. The weather this week was pretty crappy, but still no snow so I am happy about that! We spent a lot of time inside so we could stay out of the cold rain. Here are some of the things that I enjoyed about this week! 

Last night we decided to head to Oberweis Dairy to try it out the ice cream. Dan has had Oberweis before but I have never tried it. We both got chocolate malts and they were very good! The chocolate was extremely rich and the ice cream was nice and creamy. I would definitely go back and try some other ice cream treats that they have!

Since we have been staying inside I have been doing a lot of reading. I have loved just relaxing on the sofa and digging into a good book after work. Currently I am still working my way through The Return of the King after taking a break to read The Shining! I think next I am going to start the second book in the Outlander series. 

I've been requesting different cookbooks from the library and I love browsing the different recipes. It's so much fun to look for new vegetarian recipes, especially different casseroles or slow cooker meals that will heat up our house in these cold months. Do you have any cookbook suggestions for me?

There is something so refreshing about starting a new month. I love updating my calendars and getting ready for fresh start. It makes me feel so excited and motivated to attack my goals with a fresh perspective!

How was your week this week?

P.S. the tea of the day is english breakfast tea ^_^

Friday, November 3, 2017

October Favorites

Is it really already November? I can't believe how quickly this year is flying by! I feel like I've barely gotten used to it being October and now the month is already over! Anyhow, here are a few things I really enjoyed this month!

English Breakfast Tea. This month instead of chai tea I've been drinking English Breakfast tea, and I really like it! It's not as sweet as chai, but I am enjoying the change of something sweet to something bold and hearty as the weather changes. I mix in about 1 tsp of sugar and a few splashes of milk after steeping the tea. This is quickly become my new favorite drink during the week and on weekends.

The Shining. I finished The Shining about a week before Halloween and I loved it. I had seen the movie a few months ago and I thought it was creepy, but not too scary. The book, however, was much scarier! I loved how it was set up; the beginning was a lot of foreshadowing and I could really feel him building to his crescendo. Then, during the second half of the book everything happened quickly and my heart would start racing each time I picked it up. I was reading this in the evenings after work and I had to ask Dan to walk around the house with me when it got dark because I was so freaked out! I would definitely recommend this if you are looking for something creepy.

Vacation. My vacation with Dan up to Minnesota was probably my favorite part of the month! It was so nice to see our families and get a few days to relax away from work. I can't wait until we take another vacation! Where should we go next?

Halloween. I've always enjoyed Halloween, especially because of the traditions we had as kids. My family would always make Jack-o-lantern pizzas before trick or treating and it made the evening so special. This year, Dan and I cheated and just ordered in a pizza, but I had the best time! We watched an old Goosebumps TV show episode and then an episode from Black Mirror while handing out candy to the kids out trick or treating. A perfect Halloween night! 

What things did you love about last month?

P.S. the tea of the day is citrus green tea ^_^

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Weekly Happiness #4

Happy Sunday! This week was a really lovely one for me. Nothing really out of the ordinary happened, but I had a nice cozy week and I felt like I both got a lot done but also relaxed a good amount. Here are some of the things that made the week so nice!

This week I had a half day at work and I always love using those to get errands and homey things done. It is so nice, especially at this time of year, to do things around the house that make it feel warm and cozy. On my half day on Wednesday I went grocery shopping and got some cute new autumn decorations. It was a great afternoon off from work!

When I went shopping I got the adorable little pumpkin decorations pictured above for the house and I absolutely adore them! We have a few autumnal decorations around already, but these were much more Halloween feeling and I thought they added a nice touch before the holiday on Tuesday. I'm hoping these last me at least a few years because I think they are just too cute!

This week I finished A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. There is something so satisfying about finishing a good book and getting excited to start something new. I really enjoyed A Return to Love; it was very insightful and practical about how to live your life surrounded with love and positivity. I'm definitely going to put into practice some of the things she discussed!

We recently set up a puzzle (the one on this page) and I have been having so much fun picking away at it! I find autumn the perfect time for puzzles. It's the perfect cozy indoor activity for the chilly days we have been having. 

The weather has really cooled down this week and I am so grateful that it is finally sweater weather. I have been loving bundling up in my sweaters and scarves each morning before work! I'm sure I'll be tired of it soon, but for right now I am enjoying the cool temps!

What made you happy this week?

P.S. the tea of the day is english breakfast tea ^_^

Thursday, October 26, 2017

How to Manage Your Period During Work

A few of my favorite things

Periods are not the easiest time of the month, and recently I've been thinking about what helps me get through a long day of work during that time of the month. Over the past few years I've done my best to develop practices that help me get through the day without feeling overwhelmed. While us girls are never going to feel completely normal, here are the tips and tricks I try to stick to so I can make my week as comfortable as possible. 

Get extra rest. It’s more important than ever to let your body rest. Take a day off from the gym, head to sleep an hour early, or take a long bubble bath. Do whatever helps you relax and rest a little extra during the evenings so you don’t end up feeling drained while you are at work.

Eat healthy foods. Cravings are definitely harder to manage during this week, but it’s important to try to eat as healthy as possible. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and home cooked meals will improve the gross, bloated feelings you have. This goes for lunch as well! Pack a nice lunch so you won’t be tempted to order in or stop by the closest fast food joint.

Drink tea. Peppermint tea helps to relieve any pain and cramping while ginger tea helps nausea. Sip on some hot tea instead of coffee during the day to keep yourself feeling relaxed and ready for what the day has in store.

Allow yourself to indulge. While it is important to be healthy during this time of the month, don’t be too strict with yourself! Have that little bit of chocolate or an extra cookie. Your body is working hard so enjoy a little bit!

Advil. I used to try to avoid taking Advil and would try to deal with the uncomfortable feelings during this week without using medicine. However, when I began working full time I started seeing the benefit of using medicine more often. A day with your period is already going to feel long, so don’t make it worse for yourself. Whether you stand or sit all day, taking pain killers to alleviate some of the stress on your body will help the day go by until you can relax again.

What do your do during that time of the month?

P.S. the tea of the day is citrus green tea ^_^

Monday, October 16, 2017

Weekly Happiness #3

Happy Monday! How was everyone's week last week? The week was a busy but a good one for me. Lots of little things to make me smile even though the week flew past! 

Last weekend my boyfriend and I went on vacation. It was a much needed little break for both of us. My favorite part was showing my boyfriend, Dan, around Minnesota. He had never been and it was so fun to show him around where I grew up with my parents! We also got to see his family in Illinois on our way back home so it was the perfect little trip. We both felt that when we got back to work we were refreshed and ready to get back into the swing of things. Check out the pictures I took here

This weekend was Homecoming for my college which is always a fun time of year. On Friday evening Dan and I headed over to a bar in town to meet up with some of his fraternity brothers. It was nice to see some people who have moved out of state and to meet new people! There was such a mix of people who had been active in the fraternity just a few years ago to people who had been active back in the 80's or 90's; I loved seeing how they still come back to see each other!

This weekend I ended up seeing a few friends that I haven't seen in a while. One of my friends moved to Missouri earlier this year and I haven't had a chance to head down and see her. On Friday she was driving through town on her way back home and I got to see her on my lunch break. It was wonderful to catch up with her, even if only for an hour! I also saw a few friends who came into town for Homecoming. With our work schedules it has been harder to find the time to drive and see each other, so I hadn't seen them in at least a few months. We went out to grab a coffee and we sat chatting and catching up for a few hours. Hopefully it won't be so long until we see each other again!

I decided to read The Shining as my creepy Halloween book this year. I started it early since it was a bigger book, but I am flying through it! I'll probably be done with it well before Halloween! I saw the movie for the first time earlier this year, so I know the general plot of the book. However, I have felt that I am getting much more detail about the different events by reading the book. I can't wait to keep reading it! 

What made you happy this week?

P.S. the tea of the day is citrus green tea ^_^

Thursday, October 12, 2017

October Road Trip Photos

This past weekend my boyfriend and I took a short trip up to Minnesota to visit my parents. We decided to rent a car and drive, and even though it was rainy on Friday (which made a bit of a stressful drive) we had a lot of fun! I can't wait until we take another road trip together. Below are some of the photos we took on our trip! 

Driving through Illinois

Starbucks run!

Cute little cabbage flowers at Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls

The fall colors in Wisconsin were amazing on our way back home! I can check seeing the autumn colors off my autumn bucket list

We were only gone a few days, but it was the perfect little vacation and we got some much needed relaxation. I hope you enjoyed the photos!

P.S. the tea of the day is cinnamon hibiscus herbal tea ^_^

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Autumn Bucket List

As the fall season kicks off I definitely want to take full advantage of the fun things there are to do around this time of year. Here are some of the things on my fall bucket list this year!

I haven't been to an apple orchard in a few years, and I would love to visit one this year! Picking fresh apples and making tasty apple treats sounds like a perfect way to warm up the house as the temperatures continue to fall. 

Seeing the leaves change to the beautiful fall colors is one of my favorite things about this season. As the earth prepares for winter it puts on such a beautiful show! I would love to take a hike and see the colors up close.

I love drinking apple cider, but usually I only get it at coffee shops. I really want to try making my own this year, maybe with apples I get from an orchard!

I've never been a huge fan of scary movies, but I definitely want to try to watch a silly Halloween film this year! On the top of my list are It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and Young Frankenstein

Even though I don't like scary movies, I do enjoy a good creepy book! I would love to read at least one spooky thriller this year cuddled up on the sofa. Do you have any spooky recommendations for me?

Since becoming vegetarian, Thanksgiving has always been a fun time to try new autumn vegetarian dishes. I always like trying to make something new around Thanksgiving, and I'm already starting to think of ideas! I'm thinking maybe a casserole or some sort of stuffed pepper.

What are you looking forward to this season?

P.S. the tea of the day is citrus green tea ^_^

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Weekly Happiness #2

Happy Sunday! I hope everyone had a fantastic week and a relaxing weekend. I've had a weekend full of reading and short spurts of cleaning the house. I've been thoroughly enjoying digging into a few new books! Here are a few other things that made me smile this week. 

I started and finished Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott this week and it was just what I needed. A riveting tale of addiction and faith, it was so inspiring to hear about her struggles and how she used her faith to overcome those issues. I would love to dig into some of her other works! 

The temperatures have finally started to cool down into autumn temps! I am so grateful to finally be able to wear sweaters without sweating as soon as I walk out of work. Fall is one of my favorite seasons and I can't wait for the changing leaves and warm suppers after a long day at work.

On Saturday I decided to take a trip over to the library to look for a book and I ended up leaving with 4! Hopefully I can get through them all before they are due! I've been really into different books on spirituality, anyone have any good recommendations?

The new season of Gotham just came back and I am so excited! Gotham is one of the few shows we watch while it is actually airing and I love the excitement and suspense of waiting for each episode to come out. Don't get me wrong, I definitely enjoy the instant gratification of binging a show, but there is something fun about gearing up for a new episode of a show each week. 

What made you smile this week?

P.S. the tea of the day is dragonfruit devotion ^_^

Thursday, September 28, 2017

September Favorites

Happy Thursday! Can you believe that it's the end of September already? I'm so excited for the cooler weather, hot drinks from Starbucks, and all the autumn decor and movies on TV! While we wait for the weather to actually cool down into fall temps, here are some things I have been loving in the month of September! 

Game of Thrones Season 6

I am finally getting caught up on Game of Thrones! In the last few weeks I have watched through season 6 of the series and I absolutely loved it! So many things happened and it feels like all the moving parts in the story are finally coming together. I can't wait to see what season 7 brings!

Kalyn Nicholson YouTube

I got sucked into Kalyn's YouTube channel this month and I just adore her and her videos. She talks about a ton of organizational and planning things and the nerd in me loves it. I find it so satisfying to watch other people clean, organize, and plan to give me new ideas and inspiration. I love watching Kalyn because she is always so authentic and silly in her videos.

Bel Canto

I finished this novel this month and holy cow, it was so good! It was the perfect mix between having action and suspense but also diving into relationships and people. I felt like I got a perfect understanding for the different characters, so when the story twisted and turned the actions of the characters made perfect sense. Book review coming soon! 

Neutrogena Face Wash

I have to be honest and say that I only bought this face wash because the one I usually use (here) was out and I had a coupon for this one. However, I love how it feels! It leaves my skin feeling tingly and clean and it's the perfect thing to wake me up in the morning. I haven't noticed a huge difference in my skin, but I don't wear any makeup and I only put moisturizer and eye cream on my face, so, I don't generally get much acne. I simply love how clean my face feels after using this! 

What types of things have you been loving lately?

P.S. the tea of the day is an Arnold Palmer ^_^

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Weekly Happiness #1

Happy Sunday! I wanted to change up my weekly inspiration posts to something that would incorporate more fun things and little tidbits here on Sundays. In this series I will share a few things that inspired me, made me smile, or that I was grateful for during the past week. I hope you enjoy! 

Afternoons off from work. Even though it means I have to work on Saturday morning I love when I get an afternoon off from work during the week! This week I ran a few errands and then relaxed while catching up on Game of Thrones. I was getting caught up on season 6 so I can start season 7 soon!

Game of Thrones. I love both the TV show and the books! I can't wait until the new books come out, but until then I will just binge out on the show! I love that now as the seasons have progressed there are more differences between the books and the show. It's so fascinating to see the slightly different directions they are going without departing at all from the overarching story line. 

Flowers outside work. On the side of the building that I work in there are all these pretty flower bushes that are still in bloom. It's such a treat to walk past them every morning going into work! 

What made you happy this week?

P.S. the tea of the day is green tea with honey and ginseng ^_^

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Autumn Knitting Wishlist

I recently finished the scarves I was working on my myself and my boyfriend and I realized I didn't have a knitting project I wanted to start after that. After browsing the internet and Pinterest for different knitting project, here are some projects that I would love to work on this autumn!

I absolutely adore this blanket! I think it looks so cozy for a cold winter night. I'm planning on making this my next project just so I can cuddle up under this blanket with a warm mug of tea and a book! 

Isn't this bag cute? The perfect bag for a knitting project or to use as a large tote! This is definitely going on my to be knit list.

The perfect autumn pattern! Wouldn't these pumpkins look adorable on a fireplace mantle? 

I've never knit a sweater before but this one seems like the perfect place to start! This looks so cozy and warm for relaxing around the house.

I follow Gabi from Maison Dene on IG and the first time I saw her post this pattern I fell in love. This sweater is definitely in my future.

I hope you enjoyed this post! What's on your to knit list?

P.S. the tea of the day is iced citrus green tea ^_^

Thursday, August 24, 2017

How to Maintain a Work Life Balance

Working a full time job and being able to enjoy the time after work can be tough. Too much focus on work can lead to stress that makes it hard to enjoy life. Here are a few tips on how to maintain a good work life balance!

Calendar. Use a calendar to plan your days. Giving yourself time to work, complete household chores, and relax is important. For tips on using a calendar see my post here
       Free time. Schedule in free time for relaxation – working hard for your many goals isn’t fun if you can’t enjoy some TV, a good book, or some time on the phone with a friend!
 Prioritize. Make sure to prioritize your goals. Outside of work, what are the most important things you want to get done? Complete the items of most importance right when you get home or during your lunch break. After those items, smaller tasks can fill in during the evening.
 Weekends. Enjoy the weekends! Don’t just cram your weekends full with the things you couldn’t do during the week. Remember, you work a lot during the rest of the week! Take the time to enjoy your days off. Make sure to get some quality relaxation time to recharge for the new week ahead. 

How do you maintain a good work life balance?

P.S. the tea of the day is green tea with ginseng and honey ^_^

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Weekly Inspiration: Gratitude

In my post on Thursday (see here) I spoke about the gratitude journal that I have been trying to write in every morning. I have found that even on the hard days, when I am stressed or upset about something, it is still very easy to find 10 things to be grateful for. This habit helps me keep perspective on the day. Just because something annoying happened the previous day or in the morning, it doesn't have to taint the whole day. By stopping and thinking about the good things in the midst of those negative feelings, I've found that my mood starts to improve immediately.

At the end of the day, if I notice that something has upset me or I start feeling down, I can just look back at my list and remember all the things I was grateful for that morning. In this way the journal serves 2 purposes; thinking about the things I am grateful for in the morning, and providing me a boost during the middle or end of the day if something starts to get me down. With this journal I have found myself fully appreciating each and every day.

Do you have a different way of keeping track of things you are grateful for? Tell me about it!

P.S. the tea of the day is green tea with ginseng ^_^

Thursday, August 3, 2017

July Favorites

My goodness, where has the time gone? I feel like I was just posting my June Favorites and now it's already time for July! This past month flew by, so this post is a bit shorter, but here are some July Favorites!

Gratitude Journal. Towards the end of June I started writing down 10 things I was grateful for *almost* every morning. I’ve kept it up through the month of July, and now into August. I absolutely love it! It’s so refreshing to sit down each morning and jot down a few things I am feeling grateful for. It can range from big things, like having a good job, to small things, like a warm mug of tea. Especially on mornings where I wake up feeling frazzled or I’ve had a stressful week, it’s a nice reminder not to take anything for granted and to appreciate the small things in life.

Image Source

The Handmaid’s Tale. I absolutely flew through this book! I have been wanting to read it for a long time, but it kept getting pushed to the bottom of my TBR pile. I finally decided to just request it at the library so I didn't see too many spoilers online from the TV series. Once I received it I read it in less than a week! A fantastically written and interesting ntriguing book, I would definitely read this again. Now I want to watch the TV series to see how it compares!

Image Source

Chai tea. Recently I have been adoring having a mug of chai tea, with a little milk and sugar, on weekend mornings. In an attempt to cut back on sugar I try to drink herbal teas during the week, and save this abs a treat on the weekends. This makes it so much more enjoyable! Having a simple treat to enjoy on the weekends has definitely made me appreciate the time at home more.

P.S. the tea of the day is Teavana Defense Wellness tea ^_^ Did anyone else see that they are closing all the Teavana stores? I better stock up!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bookshelf Wishlist

Recently I've been daydreaming about books I would love to add to my collection. Here are 5 books on my bookshelf wishlist!

"S. Morgenstern's timeless tale—discovered and wonderfully abridged by William Goldman—pits country against country, good against evil, love against hate. From the Cliffs of Insanity through the Fire Swamp and down into the Zoo of Death, this incredible journey and brilliant tale is peppered with strange beasties monstrous and gentle, and memorable surprises both terrible and sublime." -Barnes & Noble

This movie is one of my all time favorites. However, until recently I didn't even realize that it was based on a book! I can't wait until I get my hands on a copy and I can read it.

"Tristran Thorn promised to bring back a fallen star. So he sets out on a journey to fulfill the request of his beloved, the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester—and stumbles into the enchanted realm that lies beyond the wall of his English country town. Rich with adventure and magic, Stardust is one of master storyteller Neil Gaiman's most beloved tales, and the inspiration for the hit movie." -Barnes & Noble

This one is also a movie I love that I didn't realize was a book. I know the movie is decently cheesy, but I just can't get enough of it! It is just so cute and funny and I can only imagine how great the book must be.

"An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world." -Barnes & Noble

Science was never my favorite subject in school, but this memoir makes it all sound so fascinating. I would love to lose myself in Jahren's life as a scientist! 

"This book contains the original tale by Madame de Villeneuve, first published in 1740, and although the classic elements of Beauty giving up her freedom to live with the Beast, during which time she begins to see beyond his grotesque appearance, are present, there is a wealth of rich back story to how the Prince became cursed and revelations about Beauty's parentage, which fail to appear in subsequent versions." -Barnes & Noble

I can't believe I have never read this one before! I was obsessed with Beauty and the Beast growing up, and when I saw the 1946 film I loved it so much more. I can't wait to see what the story I love so much was based off of. 

"In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic." -Barnes & Noble

This book has been on my TBR list for quite a while now. The concept of the book reminds me so much of my favorite short story, The Yellow Wallpaper. This novel sounds so fascinating and I would love to spend a weekend engrossed in it.

What is on your bookshelf wishlist?

P.S. the tea of the day is an Arnold Palmer ^_^