Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge

Good morning!

This year I did the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I set a goal for myself in January that I would read at least 30 [new] books. This was a really good thing for me because I have a "bad" habit of re-reading the same books over and over. Granted, I did do a bit of that this year, especially when I needed a break from some of the more intense books. I re-read the Fablehaven series (again... so good) and a few individual books that I've enjoyed before or wanted to refresh my memory.

I also thought 30 was an ambitious but reasonable number. Some of my Goodreads friends set goals of 50 or more books and, a week or so out from the new year, they haven't yet neared that goal. On the other hand, one girl set a goal of 127 books and has read 125, so I guess anything is possible!

I did do a book review post over the summer, so I'm not going to review those books here again. : ) Instead they are listed in bold, and I'll just skip over them to the next set!

1. Peter and the Shadow Thieves (Peter and the Starcatchers Book 2) - Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson

This book series is based on the story of Peter Pan... but it's mainly meant to be prequels. Only the 4th book takes place with Wendy and the Darlings, the story most are familiar with. I read the first book in the series last year because of the play that was released on Broadway (with Christian Borle... my fav). This book, the second in the series, was very good, and I gave it 4 stars. 

2. The First Phone Call from Heaven - Mitch Albom ... I gave this one three stars. It's not my favorite Mitch Albom book. I think after reading "Have a Little Faith" I was expecting more.
3. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) - Marissa Moyer ... I got this out of the school library after seeing it reviewed online. I gave it 3 stars because while it was an okay story, it wasn't really for me.
4. Bossypants - Tina Fey

I really enjoy Tina Fey and her writing. I gave this one 5 stars. A. and I also watched the first season of 30 Rock on Netflix over the summer and we found it very funny. : )

5. Seeds of Rebellion (Beyonders, #2) - Brandon Mull 

I know I've said this before, but I really love Brandon Mull's storytelling abilities. His Fablehaven series is one of my all-time favorites, and while the Beyonders series took place in an entirely fictional world, I still really sunk my teeth into it. The second book was just as enthralling as the first and I gave it four stars... I think only because there were a few slow parts that were tough to get through.

6. Chasing the Prophecy (Beyonders, #3) - Brandon Mull ... I gave this one five stars. It was a really excellent end to the series, and again, I admired Brandon's talent of creating a new world and weaving this exciting tale around it.
7. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett ... I thought it was about time I actually read this book. I watched the movie when I was younger and I had a picture-book version, but never read the real story. I thought it was a very good children's book and gave it four stars.
8. Hollywood Stories: Short, Entertaining Anecdotes about the Stars and Legends of the Movies - Stephen Schochet ... This was a Kindle Lending Library Read, and while there were some neat epithets, I only gave it two stars. A lot of the stories were repetitive and overall it just read like a bunch of compiled Trivia sections.
9. I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban - Malala Yousafzai

My gosh... I can only dream that I would ever have the courage and eloquence of this girl. This book was extremely enlightening and I am so glad that I read it. It really made me realize how fortunate we are in "the West" and how we take education for granted. This was a five-star book.

10. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card ... I recently re-read this one. It's a very captivating story and might not be for everyone, as it's very sci-fi and a little violent to imagine these little kids getting into the situations Card has invented. I gave it four stars.
11. The One and Only - Emily Giffin
12. The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
13. Redfield Farm: A Novel of the Underground Railroad - Judith Redline Coopey
14. An Abundance of Katherines - John Green
15. 11/22/63 - Stephen King
16. The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing - Melissa Bank
17. The Giver - Lois Lowry
18. The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin ... This was a book my friend C. lent me. It was interesting, but after a while I got kind of sick of Gretchen's preaching and all of her brilliant ideas. There was some good stuff in here but by the end of Gretchen's year I was ready to be done with her book. : ) Three stars.
19. If I Stay - Gayle Forman

I also recently re-read this book. As a musician, I found all of the musical references throughout very interesting. The love story was captivating, but my favorite character was probably Gramps. I think one of things I liked most about this book was the description of a happy family - one where the kids and parents generally get along, and the kids don't always know better than the parents. Be warned: you will need Kleenex. Four stars. 

20. Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage - Molly Wizenberg ... This was another loaner from C., and I gave it four stars. It was a very interesting read and I enjoyed Molly's writing style. It was entertaining and informative.
21. Where She Went - Gayle Forman ... The sequel to "If I Stay." This time, written from Adam's point of view instead of Mia's. It was very good and I like that the author didn't romanticize Mia's or Adam's lives after the accident. Four stars.
22. A Homemade Life - Molly Wizenberg ... I thought I would enjoy this other book by Molly since I liked Delancey, but I didn't like it as much. There are a lot of recipes involved if you're into that sort of thing. Three stars.
23. The White Queen - Philippa Gregory 

I love Philippa Gregory's books, but I feel like they are starting to get a little repetitive. I understand it's historical fiction (which I like to read)... but with all the focus on the same time period and country, I am starting to lose interest, Philippa, I'm sorry. This one had an added element of witchcraft, I guess. I gave it three stars. 

24. Peter and the Secret of Rundoon (Peter and the Starcatchers, Book 3) - Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson ... This was supposed to be the last Starcatchers book and I gave it five stars because it was action packed and very exciting to read. (It probably should have stayed as the last Starcatchers book, haha.)
25. The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy - Vicki Iovine ... My bff M. found this in a bookstore and sent to me after I announced my pregnancy. Some people give it really scathing reviews because they consider it anti-feminist, blah blah whatever. I found the entire book hysterical, especially after trying to get through How to Expect When You're Expecting, which can be a little frightening. Additionally this book is from the nineties, so the section about maternity fashion is now unintentionally hilarious. Four stars.
26. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger ... Another one I felt I should read because I never had. I found this book so stupid and pointless. Maybe if I had been reading it with a purpose in a literature class I would have found it more interesting, but I really hated whiny jerkface Holden and his stupid controversial language by the end of the book. One star.
27. Birnbaum's 2015 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide ... Surprise! I'm going to Disney again. (Or not surprise, I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it.) I got this to get the updates on Magic Bands and Fast passes... which I also could have read about online. It's nice to have the guide. I didn't rate it.
28. Looking for Alaska - John Green ... Another John Green book. For some reason I wasn't expecting the plot twist in the middle of the book; I guess I didn't read the book jacket or look too far into the chapter titles. It was a good story, but another one about death, and I needed a break after this one. Four stars.
29. Winter Garden - Kristin Hannah 

I borrowed this from my grandma and it's probably one of my favorite books I read this year. I really like historical fiction, and last year I read a few very interesting books about World War 2. However, what was really interesting about this book was that instead of learning about World War 2 England (War Brides by Helen Bryan) or WW2 Japan (Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden), there was a lot of insight to WW2 Soviet Russia. Five stars. Go read it!

30. Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell ... Two of my cello students are avid readers and this was on their "best book" list from last year, so I wanted to check it out. It was very entertaining to me, a Harry Potter fan. Also, it took me back to college life, which I miss. Five stars.
31. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn ... I really wanted to like this book, but it was so strange! I didn't find any of the characters likable and the end of the story was just... eh. Three stars after all the hype.
32. Peter and the Sword of Mercy (Peter and the Starcatchers, Book 4) - Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson ... Remember when I said the third one should have just ended the series? This book just dragged on and on. There were some good bits but on the whole I found the entire book unnecessary to the series and was glad when I finally finished it! Three stars.

Right now I am reading "The Life of Pi" ... I literally just started it two days ago and it's been a busy few days so I don't have much of an opinion on it yet. I also got two more library books for over Christmas break and am hoping to get some more new books for Christmas. : )

I know I won't be reading as many new books this year because I will be busy once the baby comes, but I am always up for new recommendations. Leave them in the comments!

And Merry Christmas! : )

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

All things Christmas

Hello again!
I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. I have just been super busy, and super tired. In case no one has ever warned you - pregnancy sucks up a TON of energy! I have been lurking on the blogs I follow, but I haven't been commenting and obviously I haven't been posting. Another thing about pregnancy - even though I would like to talk about it and write some posts, I also feel like a lot of the information is TMI. :-\
Anyway, since we're just a week away from Christmas eve, I thought I'd go the "survey" route again. I found this one at "Running with Spoons." I copy/pasted it right from the blog (hope that's okay, Amanda - you have full credit!) and the cute formatting she did came right with it. Enjoy!

Before Christmas…
Do you send out Christmas cards?
I do! This year it has been on a rolling basis. I meant to take care of all of that over Thanksgiving break but... TIRED.
How soon do you start shopping?
I will start as early as October or November if I find things that make me think of people. This year I am actually done at this point - I set a budget, I stuck to it, and I don't want to shop anymore : )
Do you have a lot of gifts to buy?
I buy for A., obviously, and my parents and brother. We also get for his parents, sister and brother-in-law, and our nephews. I get for my grandparents. This year I got dog toys for Penny, my parents' dog, and my brother's new dog. I usually don't get presents for friends unless I see something that I just can't pass up! So overall - there are not too many presents to buy, but I try to put thought into everything I get, which makes it a more complicated process. 
Do you bake cookies?
Normally - yes. This year - if I feel like it next week, I'll do some baking... but if not, I don't think anyone will be heartbroken! : )

Do you put up a Christmas tree?
Yes! We have our big tree in the living room. I have a four-foot tree for all of my Barbie ornaments. I have a Charlie Brown Christmas tree that I put in the guest room, and this year at school I bought a little tree from a fundraiser and the kids decorated it for me!
If so, is it fake or real? 
All of my trees are fake - except for the little one I got for school this year. My least favorite part of decorating is putting lights on the tree, so when I could afford to get a tree that was pre-lit, I was like- DONE. 
Do you like tinsel?
Only in garland form!
Do you use homemade or storebought ornaments? 
I think the majority of my ornaments are store bought... I am sure we will have more homemade ones once the family starts growing! : ) [You can see a post I did about ornaments from last year, here.]
Part of my Barbie ornament collection from my uncle. 

Do you put Christmas lights outside your house?
I put them on our porch rails. Neither of us have been motivated enough to figure out actual outdoor lights yet, and also I am terrified of ladders.
Do you put lights on the tree? 
The lights are already on the tree! YAY
How about popcorn and cranberries?
No... nothing edible on the tree.
Is there a wreath hanging on your door?
Yes! and one in the foyer, too.

Christmas Eve…
Do you celebrate it?
Yes! One of the reasons I enjoyed this survey from Amanda is that she is also Polish and so her Christmas traditions are similar to mine. Growing up we always did a lot on Christmas eve - my family isn't Catholic so no Midnight Mass, but we would go to our Methodist church for one or two services, then go to my grandparents' house to exchange gifts with them, my aunts and uncles, and cousins. Seafood and lots of Christmas treats. As we got older and my dad's family spread out, that tradition kind of fell through, so we started going to my mom's side to celebrate my cousin's birthday, which is on Christmas Eve. 
Last year was my first Christmas Eve away from home, and we celebrated with A.'s family. I went to a local church for their candlelight service.
Do you hang up your stocking?
We do! Our last house actually had a mantle. Not at our new place, but I hang them off of our bookshelf. : )
Have you ever left cookies out for Santa?
Always when I was younger! And carrots for the reindeer. And one year, an inkpad to get Santa's fingerprint to try and determine if my parents were really involved in the whole spiel. LOL

Christmas Movie?
A Year Without a Santa Claus! I'm watching it now. I also really, really love White Christmas. 
Character from any Christmas Movie?
Snow Miser. And Buddy the Elf!
Christmas Song?
Silent Night... it reminds me of the reason for the season, and takes me back to twenty-plus years of Candlelight services at church. 

Christmas Memory?
I really love all of the family bonding I get to do around Christmas, but sometimes it can get hectic. One of my favorite Christmas memories that always sticks out is one Christmas night when my mom and I spread out on the couch and watched Christmas movies, with just the Christmas tree lights on in the background. It was so peaceful after all of the running around during the day. 
Christmas Cookie?
My mom makes meringue cookies every year, and they're my favorite. They melt in your mouth!

This or That…
Give or Receive?
I love to give gifts!
Ham or Turkey?
Either... mmm, food!
Star or Angel?
Either... right now we have an angel. I have also used Santa hats as tree toppers.
White Lights or Coloured Lights?
White lights.
Blinking Lights or Still Lights?
Were you Naughty or Nice this year?
I try to be nice!

What do you want for Christmas this year?
Some new maternity shirts so I don't have to rotate the same sweaters through my wardrobe every week : )
When do you open your gifts?
Christmas Eve with A's family, Christmas morning with A., and Christmas day with my family. 
What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten?
It's hard for me to pick one. Being able to spend every Christmas with my family is a pretty big deal and people have always given me nice and thoughtful things. Last year A. did get me a snowflake necklace that I'd had my eye on for two years!
What’s the worst gift you’ve ever gotten?
One year when I was about 8 years old, my grandpa wrapped up empty boxes for me and all of my cousins. Not a nice trick to play on a kid! Also, when I was 11 or 12 my aunt got me a training bra. I was so humiliated to open it in front of everyone!
Do you like wrapping gifts?
I don't mind it - I set up shop in a room with a TV and play a Christmas movie while I get it all done in one shot. 

Can you name all the reindeer?
Better yet, I can SING all of the reindeer!
Have you ever gotten a kiss under the mistletoe?
I don't think so. That's an actual thing? 
Do you go caroling?
I've gone several times with church and with school groups. Most people seem to appreciate it, actually. 
Do you drive around and look at the Christmas lights?I haven't in recent years because I'm not sure where I'd go in my new area, but we always did that as a family on Christmas Eves before or after church. This year I did take A. to see an area attraction called "Lights on the Lake" for the first time. I've also seen the lights at Hersheypark Christmas Candy Lane, which is cool!
Have you ever had a white Christmas?Yes, but not in recent years! (Which is okay since we're always traveling on Christmas!)
Who do you celebrate Christmas with?Our families... yes, we enjoy it!
Have you ever had your picture taken with Santa? 
Yes, usually with my brother, and we have this gem...
Check out those sweatsuits! LOL
What part of Christmas do you look most foward to?
Spending time with family. Honestly, even without any gifts, it would be nice to be with everyone. I can't lie, I am so looking forward to next Christmas and creating all kinds of new traditions with my son : ) 

I will be back sometime soon to write a giant post relating to books... I actually have been planning that one in my head. See you soon, and Merry Christmas! : )

Friday, November 14, 2014

Check in, check up

So far, this week has been a pretty good week. Lots happening, lots of money being spent, but mostly good things.

Last weekend, I went home to see my parents. It was a really nice weekend - I went shopping with my mom, and really enjoyed that time spent with her. I went to church with my family, and I also stopped to see my grandparents. My grandfather has not been doing well the past few months - his health and attitude are constantly in a state of flux. Spending time with them has always been nice but now it is even more precious to me.

I also got a new phone on Sunday... upgraded for the first time since 2011!

Monday - finally got to my dermatologist. I have to schedule my appointments a year out, but I really like my doctor, so I keep going there. She prescribed me medicine I can safely use on my skin while pregnant, which is a HUGE DEAL! and has made me so happy this week. I have been on some kind of acne medication constantly since I was about 12, and since I've been pregnant I obviously haven't been using anything... and my skin completely turned on me. It's already clearing back up... I feel so much better!

Tuesday - no school. : ) AND....... I bought a new car! A 2015 Honda CR-V. It is so nice and new and pretty - I've never owned a new car - and it will be great once the little one comes along!

Wednesday - was the longest day of the week. Cold parade practice after a long day of teaching made for a very sore and tired me. BUT, A. ordered pizza, which was waiting when I came home and we enjoyed dinner with his parents.

Thursday - Had a good day of teaching and a nice relaxing evening at home.

aaand this morning, we went to the doctor's office first thing (7 am) and I had an ultrasound... we were finding out the sex of Baby Z. : ) Not revealing it here yet but it definitely made for an exciting start to the day!

A. has work to do around here this weekend, but I am going with my parents to visit my brother.

Also I've been listening to Christmas music all week and watching movies on Hallmark when I can. : )

Hope you are all having a good week as well!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

And I was like, Baby, Baby, Baby ooooh!

It's Week 17! and marching band is 95% done for the year. Which is ordinarily a nice feeling anyway, but exceptionally nice this year since, you know, I'm growing a human. : )

Here's the latest and greatest:

* The most frequent question I'm currently asked is "How are you feeling?" It has surpassed "When are you due?" now that more people are aware that I'm expecting. I no longer feel sick (THANK YOU JESUS!), so the most common answers are "Tired" and "Like I have to pee."

* We find out whether Baby Z is a boy or girl on November 14th! We are super excited. : )

* Another popular question is whether I would prefer a boy or girl. My answer is, as long as the baby is healthy, I don't care. The last thing I want is for this child to come into the world already feeling like it disappointed me for being "wrong." (However, A is convinced it's a girl.)

* Registries are overwhelming. At least for our wedding I knew what we actually needed and wanted. With all the baby registry lists out there I have no idea what is actually necessary, so I've been asking recent mommy friends on Facebook for their advice.

* The best thing happened at my last evening marching practice last week. I ended field show practice and gave the kids a ten minute break before we started running parade practice. Meanwhile, parents start arriving for a Music Booster meeting. Two parents come up to me looking very concerned and say I need to come in and talk to a third parent, who is having a nervous breakdown due to her family's financial concerns. I turn around to give the band instructions before I go in AND THEY ARE ALL MISSING. So I head in to locate them and find this distraught mother. The band is still nowhere to be found and I am getting mad. Parents 1 and 2 are in the hallway telling me that the upset mom is in the cafeteria and asking me to please calm her down, so I turn in there and BAM! Lights go on, and my entire band (and some of their parents) are sitting there with a table full of two sheet cakes and snacks, and another table full of gifts!

That's right - my staff, band, and boosters threw me a baby shower. I had NO IDEA it was coming... I mean, this baby's not even halfway there!

It was such a wonderful surprise. My assistant band director, who is also a really good friend, assigned each section of the band a different "theme" to shop for - the clarinets got bath supplies, the trumpets and saxes got tons of diapers, the low brass got bibs and bottles, the color guard got all kinds of onesies and blankies, etc. It was so sweet. The kids actually liked watching me open the presents - even the boys were paying attention! And their stories about shopping for their gifts were just as precious as the gifts themselves. 

This is my giant collection of stuff from the shower. We had to stow it all in the guest room because we do not have a room cleared out for a nursery yet. We're getting there, slowly but surely, but the gifts from this shower gave us a great head start!

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, but as I said... it's been busy. Hopefully I can get back into the swing of things soon!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

FWD: 40 Completely Random Questions About Me

Heyyyyy! I'm still around.

Today I was thinking about AOL. Remember AOL? That was pretty much my social life in junior high and high school, and then AIM carried me through college. (This was all before Facebook took over the internet.) For years of my life, one of my favorite things to do on AOL e-mail was fill out those little personal "all about you" surveys and send them to my friends and collect the ones they sent back. I PRINTED THEM OUT. I am curious if they are still stashed away somewhere in my bedroom at my parents' house... I will have to investigate sometime.

THIS TOO. This was a BIG. DEAL.

Anyway, I was trying to think of what I could do to jumpstart my blog again, and I thought I HAVE TO FIND A SURVEY.

And I did!

1. What is your occupation? I am a music teacher. 
2. What color are your socks right now? I am not wearing socks... instead my feet are under a nice soft warm blanket. : )
3. What are you listening to right now? SNL (on DVR from last night)
4. What was the last thing that you ate? Peanut Butter M&Ms...
5. Can you drive a stick shift? I can't say I have ever tried... I'm not sure it would be a good idea, because I'd probably forget I wasn't in automatic and break the car. : )
6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Purple
7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? My mom
8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? I found it on the internet and I love the internet!
9. How old are you today? 27
10. Favorite drink? Right now I am really into Sprite, milk, and lemonade. 
11. What is your favorite sport to watch? Ummmmmmmmmm... A used to play indoor soccer and that was pretty fun to watch. I also used to watch PSU Football regularly, but I am not so much into watching sports anymore. I don't know. 
12. Have you ever dyed your hair? Since I was 12... it has been many colors!
13. Pets? The wonderful and adorable Penny!

14. Favorite food? Chocolate! I also love seafood.
15. Last movie you watched? Muppets Most Wanted. Eh.
16. Favorite Day of the year? Christmas! I am so excited... I saw Christmas decorations in the stores yesterday. I know that drives a lot of people nuts but it just made me feel happy inside.  
17. What do you do to vent? Call my mom... she patiently listens to my insanity.
18. What was your favorite toy as a child? Barbies... so many Barbies... 
19. What is your favorite season? Summer
20. Hugs or kisses? Hugs 
21. Cherry or Blueberry? Cherry
22. Do you want your friends to email you back? I honestly can't remember the last time I got an e-mail from a friend, usually my e-mail box is full of ads and junk.
23. Who is most likely to respond? Whoever also feels like doing a nostalgic survey : )
24. Who is least likely to respond? People who don't know this blog exists... which is fine
25. Favorite TV show? Parks & Rec, The Office, Smash, Modern Family
26. When was the last time you cried? Oh gosh, since becoming pregnant it is a pretty frequent thing. It could be a commercial or an e-mail or a song. Embarrrrrrrassing.
27. What is on the floor of your closet? Shoes, and many organizational bins.  
28. Favorite place? DISNEY WORLD.
29. Last trip you took? I went to visit my old alma mater today and met up with my friend C. 
30. Favorite smells? Delicious baking smells, or tropical scents
31. Who inspires you? My parents; my grandparents; my brother; my husband
32. What are you afraid of? Stupid ugly smelly creepy birds ughhhhh they're the worst
33. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? Cheeseburgers!
34. Favorite car? I wanted a Honda CR-V the last time I bought a car but they were too expensive... I am determined to get one this time!
35. Favorite cat breed? There are cat breeds? Nope.
36. Number of keys on your key ring? I think 6, and two of them don't even work in anything : )
37. How many years at your current job? This is my fourth year (with a two-year break in the middle courtesy of budget cuts)
38. Favorite day of the week? Saturday
39. How many states have you lived in? Just the one. : )
40. Do you think you're funny? ABSOLUTELY. My job is part comedian, my kids get some of my best material! 

Keep it real!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Baby baby, how was I supposed to know?

So the big, most major reason I haven't been on here much lately - other than school - is because A. and I got some big news at the end of July.

Surprise! We're gonna have a baby!

I've always wanted to be a mommy, but I will admit that I panicked a little bit after taking the first pregnancy test. I even waited a few days to tell A- I didn't tell ANYONE- because I needed to get used to the idea myself. I realize that's kind of selfish, but this is a huge change- everything will change!- and I wanted my own feelings in check. We honestly thought it would take longer for us to get pregnant, but we were lucky and it happened immediately.

So for the past eleven weeks, I have been sick to my stomach almost every day (with the exception of Thursday of this week, and it was magical!) and I am constantly exhausted. Not just tired - but like I could literally at any time lay down and immediately fall asleep. This is not helped by the fact that suddenly I am an insomniac... this baby is already waking me up every day at 3:30 AM, so I can't imagine what it will be like when this child is actually out and about and crying and needing fed and all that good stuff.

This week was exceptionally crazy - I was at school from dawn til dusk four days out of five, and there was a ton to deal with at school. Last night I finally got in from the football game at about 11 pm, and my parents came to visit, so we sat up and talked until around midnight... this morning Penny had me up at 7 and I am sitting here now feeling surprised that I feel like I've been hit by a truck.

Here are the token pregnancy questions I have been getting used to:

  • When are you due? April.
  • How are you feeling? Sick, and tired, all the time. (But I know it's not going to last forever!)
  • Craving anything? Nothing unusual. I have always been a chocoholic, so wanting chocolate is not unusual really. This might sound weird, but I actually want to drink milk all the time
  • Averting anything? Our kitchen drain (GOD it smells awful, A. can hold it up to his nose and not smell a thing but I can smell it from five feet away), and the smell of bacon. It's really unfortunate, but I just can't. A. is bummed because it's prime BLT season here, his parents grow tomatoes, but when you cook bacon, the smell sticks around. 
  • Are you going to find out if it's a boy or girl? Yep! But that's not until October. I like being prepared for everything!
  • Any names picked out? My brother has dubbed this child Cornelius, whether it's a boy or girl. ; ) Seriously though, we're going to keep that information under wraps until closer to time. That's our decision... I can promise it's not going to be anything trendy or oddly spelled. 

I am finding out that there are six million doctor appointments and there is so much to learn. Everyone has a million opinions on everything. I wasn't expecting an ultrasound at my first OB appointment, or I would have dragged A along - but hearing that fast little heartbeat was pretty amazing, and it was equally amazing to see the little peanut on the screen next to me.

It was really fun telling our families over Labor Day weekend. My parents will be grandparents for the first time, and they are so excited, and it was wonderful showing them the ultrasound. My in-laws are also super-excited for grandchild #3- not a surprise, since when we announced our engagement in 2012, my FIL's reaction was "Oh good, another grandbaby!" My favorite was A's sister, who screamed and cried and is hugely excited. Some of my friends had their suspicions, especially those who went to Pittsburgh with me... but they are also excited to be "aunts." : )

One thing I have been very grateful for in the blog world is a wealth of knowledge and experience that can't be found in books - and that's traveling to Disney World when pregnant, because we were already planning a trip for February and had put money into it. I'm sure I'll put in my two cents when the time comes, but I love that these ladies out there have taken the time to record their advice for others in the same boat! I'm so excited for this Florida trip and I know it will be a different experience but I am excited for that part of it too!

Anyway, that's the latest and greatest and I am sure I will be back when I have time... in the meantime I will be counting down the last few days here until this nausea and exhaustion is supposed to end : )

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Hi guys!

I promise, I swear, I have not forgotten about this blog. I know that I haven't posted in over a month, and it's not really from lack of ideas... just from lack of time! After I last wrote in July, I played for two weddings in a row, then had band camp, then went on a trip to Pittsburgh, then had a week of inservices, and started school. It's been a little bit crazy. There's been a lot going on with A., and with family, and work.

So I'll try to get here periodically in the next few months, but I can't make any grand promises!

While I'm here, I figured I'd post a little about our trip to Pittsburgh.

If you ever visit Pittsburgh, it's pretty much an unwritten rule that you have to go up the incline to Mt. Washington. It gives the most stunning views of the city, and we were there on a beautiful day.

We also went on a Gateway Clipper cruise, which was beautiful at night. Our "tour guide" on the boat was interesting and told many delightful puns. It was the same evening as a home pre-season Steelers game, so there were shuttles running to the stadium that caused our cruise to be delayed, and you would NOT BELIEVE how crazy people were getting. It was entertaining to watch! (And I was very glad I wasn't an employee of the Clipper fleet at that point in time.)

Finally, I'll leave you with a picture of me and Mr. Rogers' somewhat-creepy statue:

Won't you be my neighbor? : )

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Book Check

Heyyyyyyyyy guys. I know my blog has been pretty quiet. I've been busy with other stuff, and none of it is really blog-worthy, I guess!

I have been trying to fire through some new books this summer, instead of just re-reading the old ones... this is probably the first summer I haven't done a Harry Potter re-read. I'm expanding my horizons!

First of all, I finally read "The Night Circus."

This book is fantastic. It's definitely one of my favorite books, so I'm glad I bought it! I remember back when I was unemployed and listening to MuggleCast while I'd be baking, cooking, and cleaning, they kept recommending this book. I've wanted to read it, but I waited until I got a gift card to purchase it because the price hasn't gone down.

The story follows Celia and Marco, both trained magicians, who are bound together in a magical contract. The imagery is exquisite and the story is breathtaking. It's definitely worth reading! (and buying!)

So, I really like Emily Giffin's books. My favorite of hers is "Where We Belong." So I was very much looking forward to "The One and Only." I bought it at Target because I was sure it would be staying on my bookshelf. But after reading it, I felt not possessiveness of this book, had no problem lending it to a friend and will have no problem selling it to the bookshop or in a yard sale. The whole time I read this book, I was really hoping the story was going to go in another direction, but nope, it kept going into this terribly awkward storyline that I hated. In interviews, Emily said the point of the book is to explore taboo relationships, and she certainly did.

My grandma lent me "Redfield Farm" which she read in book club because it was written by a local author. It's about a Quaker family that participates in the Underground Railroad. The premise is interesting, and the story definitely got better as it progressed, but it's not one that I would probably read again.

John Green, the author of "The Fault in Our Stars," has many other books, including An Abundance of Katherines. It follows Colin, a child prodigy who has a thing for Katherines. Like, 19 of them. After #19 breaks up with him, he goes on a road trip with his friend Hassan to try to get over the break-up. It's a cute story and well written. I enjoyed it. : )

This book is a MONSTER, but it is a very well-crafted story... I mean, it is Stephen King. His horror novels have given me nightmares in the past (The Shining? Holy crap. What a terrifying book) so I was a little worried that this would do the same. However, after I got through the first chunk of the book, all I wanted to do was sit on the deck in my lounge chair and finish it! It follows the story of Jake (who changes his name to George), who has a chance to go back in the past to 1958. He can not only change the life of one of his friends, whose family was brutally murdered, but he can also prevent the assassination of JFK. However, the past keeps getting in the way of him accomplishing what he went there for. He also falls in loooooooooove with a girl named Sadie. So not only is there a fascinating thriller at the base of the book, there is also a love story, and it is all interwoven with very interesting 50s nostalgia and a realistic look at life as a teacher. This is definitely worth the read, if you have the time and endurance!

My friend C lent me a giant pile of books, including this one. It is an incredibly random amalgamation of chapters of Jane's life, and her encounters with love. There is one completely random chapter in which Jane is mentioned once, and I still have no idea how it fit in with the rest of the book. The only thing I liked about this book were the first and last chapters. So technically the book fished me in, and then made me flop around on the dock for the rest of the book wondering what happened to the story from the first chapter, and then finally the last chapter was interesting again. I dunno. I wouldn't bother.

I finally read The Giver yesterday! What a great book. It was a quick read, but I loved the story. I wanted to know more about the world Jonas lives in. I see that this is part of a series of four books. Has anyone read the other three? Are they worth it? Let me know! : )

What books have you read lately that were awesome?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Disneyland: The California Adventure

I am a big fan of the word "Adventure," and I use it frequently. Everything in life is an adventure... there are tiny ones, like cleaning the house (you never know what you'll find!) and big ones, like flying across the country for a wedding and vacation. So I was very excited to go to the California Adventure park!

As previously mentioned, A. and I went to California for my friend J's wedding. It was a beautiful wedding and I was so glad I could be a part of it! The day after the wedding we had our tickets and plans to go to the California Adventure... but unlike our trip to Disneyland park, we were not there at the rope drop! : ) It was a late night at the wedding, and we decided to sleep in and relax a little before going over to the park. We knew we would be there until it closed because of our tickets to see the World of Color show.

We started out our day by booking it to the Radiator Springs Racers fastpass kiosks. I used the Disneyland Wait Time app to keep track of the wait times for different rides on my phone, and RSR was almost always over 90 minutes... sometimes it sat at 125+ minutes for hours! We got to the kiosk at 10:30 and our fastpasses were for return between 4 and 5 pm... the fastpasses were all gone by the time we returned to that part of the park around 3:30, so I was glad we got there when we did!

After we took care of that, we did a lap around the park to get the lay of the land, and while we were in Paradise Pier, there was an announcement about Goofy's Instant Symphony concert starting soon. We stuck around to see that, and it was so cute! Sometimes those random entertainment things are the most memorable, and that's where Disney shines. 

Let's talk Cars Land. The theme-ing in this part of the park is pretty fantastic... assuming you've seen Cars! When I was showing my mom the pictures, she wasn't that impressed as she has never seen Cars. There are three rides in Cars Land: the aforementioned Radiator Springs Racers, Luigi's Floating Tires, and Mater's Junkyard Jamboree. We rode MJJ twice - it's a clever Scrambler-type ride and the wait was always short. Luigi's Floating Tires - a version of  bumper cars, but on hovercrafts, SERIOUSLY! - was fun too, but I didn't think it was worth waiting in line again.

We were both super glad that we got the fastpass for RSR, because it was really fun. The first part of the ride was scenic and slow, and then we got to "tip some tractors" with Mater, and then we were off to the races! It reminded me a little bit of Test Track in Florida, but it wasn't as fast. Definitely fun though! There is an on-ride photo, which we did not purchase because my face was completely covered by my hair. : )

We also went on Soarin', King Triton's Carousel, the Monsters Inc. ride, the Golden Zephyr, and we made it on Toy Story Mania twice. TSM is one you have to get fastpasses for in Florida or you have a giant wait in line ahead of you, so the fact we got on it twice was pretty awesome! It's a ride and 3-D video game combined into one. A. kicked my butt both times, but I still enjoyed myself.

If you ever make it to the California Adventure, you must - MUST - go to the Aladdin show. This was one of the things I was very excited about before the trip, and I was not disappointed. Unlike the Beauty and the Beast show in Florida, the acting and vocal performances in this show were both stellar. I loved the scenery, the actors, and the music. It followed the basic plot of the movie, only the character of Abu was written out and Jasmine got a song (which was so pretty!). The Genie, who is my favorite Disney character of them all, was outstanding. He had so many good jokes and improv moments, even including jokes about Frozen, Finding Nemo, the Kardashians, and the Lakers. This show is not one you can skip!

Another must that I was super excited about was the World of Color show. Since we had the dinner package (more about that in a moment), we had preferred seating, and we showed up an hour early to join the line. The viewing section was great, and we initially snagged some spots right at the front railing- until one of the cast members warned us we would get pretty wet in that section. Some people didn't seem to mind that, but even though the day was very hot, the evening was pretty chilly. We moved up a tier and still had a good view- and we still got soaked. (I am pretty sure that everyone at the show got wet no matter where they were standing. There is a giant water projection screen, and anytime there was a breeze, everyone got blasted.) While we were sitting there waiting for the show, there was a neat interactive game you could play on your phone with the giant Mickey Ferris Wheel - it was like Simon - the wheel would flash colors in a certain order, and you had to repeat the order on the little ferris wheel on your phone. It was a cool way to pass the time!

Was waiting that long, and getting cold and wet, worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

The show was beautiful, touching, and something I'll never forget. It was truly a spectacle. If you're never going to get out to Disneyland, check it out on YouTube sometime.

Now, the food. We went to Wine Country Trattoria for dinner, and I had high hopes. The patio, where we were seated, was beautiful. I think that any time A. and I went out for food on this trip, our table wobbled, and this place was no exception... at that point it was funny because it had happened so many times in one week. Our server seemed distracted and he was not very helpful- when it came to our passes for WOC, he gave very vague directions about where we were supposed to go, ending with "just find someone in a red vest," so that's what we did in the end. Our food was good, but it wasn't the best Disney dining we'd ever had.

I had the filet mignon and A. had the seafood pasta dish. Both were good, but there's not a whole lot more to say about them.

This dessert plate looked like it had some serious potential - but it seemed kind of clear that all of these had been sitting around for a while. The tiramisu was soggy, the panna cotta was watery, the macarons and chocolate tarts were dry. It was disappointing. 

You know what was great? Drinking SO MUCH cold water at dinner after a day of lukewarm water bottles from our bag!

I am still glad we got the dinner package, even though the food wasn't anything special, because the WOC preferred seating was totally worth it. 

Ever since we've gotten back from CA, we have been eagerly planning our next trip to WDW... what can I say, we are just Disney addicts! : )

And with that, I'll leave you with a panorama of Paradise Pier at night. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Disneyland: The Original Magic Kingdom... recap!

A. and I have been back from California for over a little over a week now, and I'm still tired! (To be fair, I could still be tired from the school year, too- I have been on the go ever since school let out.) A.'s been tired and sick (and working), and Penny is also wiped out from her busy week at my parents' while we were gone.

Sleepy puppy...

Anyway, we had a nice visit out to the west coast and the weather was gorgeous the whole time. It was crazy looking at a 10-day forecast and seeing a 0% chance of precipitation every single day. It was also nice to have no humidity! I could dry my hair and walk outside into 80* weather without my hair immediately starting to curl. 

Of course we had to go to Disneyland while we were in California, because we are huge fans. I'm going to try not to compare everything to Disney World (DW) every five minutes, but it was easy for me to see why Walt got frustrated with California and wanted to expand into "The Florida Project." When we were driving to our hotel, which was right across from the park without being a Disney resort, we were driving... driving... driving through blocks of houses, restaurants, and hotels, and then BOOM, there was Disneyland!

We got to Disneyland bright and early because- due to a three-hour time difference- we were both up and ready to go at 6 AM. So we walked into the park right after it opened at 8 AM. Again, the entrance to Disney in CA is crazy after being to DW so many times, because everything is so close together. I took this panoramic shot standing in the middle of the plaza after we walked through bag check:

California Adventure on the left, Downtown Disney in the middle, Disneyland on the right.

Since we got there so early (which I can promise did not happen any time during our honeymoon last summer) we walked right on to Big Thunder Mt. Railroad, which was a blast. Then we worked our way over to Fantasyland and went on the Flying Dumbos! After that we went on King Arthur's Carousel, and I didn't even have to fight for it - I got to ride Jingles, the most famous of the carousel horses. 

I know I'm a huge nerd and I don't care. : )

We also got to go on the Storybook Canal boats and It's a Small World, before we made our way over to Adventureland. We were both starving by this point because it was past lunchtime in Eastern Time, but the restaurants in the park don't start serving lunch foods until 10:30 Pacific Time. I finally tried a Dole Whip, and managed to get there at a point in the day when the line wasn't a mile long - later in the day when we passed, the line was almost as long as it would be for a ride!

From there we hit Pirates of the Caribbean (which we both liked much more than the DW version- it's more of an actual ride) and the Haunted Mansion. We shared a churro and then shared a lobster roll at the Harbour Galley, which was okay. It was one of the foods listed on a list I had read of the best foods to try at Disneyland... I don't know if it necessarily belongs there, but at least it satisfied our hunger (for the steep price of $13.99!)

We also went to Splash Mountain - which was different from DW in that we got TOTALLY SOAKED. The flumes are single-file instead of sitting two people across, which means you get twice as wet. We had a fun group on our flume, but we were also apparently a heavier group, because we were all drenched when we got off that ride. We also hit the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland and continued on to Tomorrowland, where I got this awesome shot in Innoventions (an EPCOT attraction at DW):

A. really likes the Avengers and superhero movies, so he really liked the Iron Man and Thor displays.

Because we were tired and trying to make it to our dinner reservation, we took a spin on the Disneyland Railroad, which was a nice break. We got ice cream on Main Street USA, found a table with an umbrella, and waited for the 4:00 parade to start. I will say this about Disneyland- there is so much more shade, which is wonderful. While we waited we listened to Rag Time Piano Eric play the piano- he was very good, but I kept thinking how disheartening it must be to sit there and play and have no one pay any attention to you. A. said "at least he gets to do what he loves." Which is true, but the next time you see a performer like that a park, try to give them some applause. : )

I had made a last minute reservation at Cafe Orleans for dinner, which was fan.tas.tic! A.'s dinner was the Monte Cristo sandwich, which seems to crop up often in Disneyland food lists - and for good reason. 

This sandwich is basically a beignet (powdered sugar donut) with melted swiss cheese, ham, and turkey in the middle. Not a combination that would have probably occurred to me, ever, but it was SO GOOD.

I had a seafood crepe with asparagus:

It was so amazing. If I take a picture of food, it was good- it means I want to remember it!

After a quick stop in the shops on Main Street USA, we left for the day- we were exhausted and dehydrated (water was $3 a bottle, and we forgot to bring our own bottles into the park - you can do that). But it was a very nice trip! Fun to experience, but I don't know if we'll make it there again - the travel to California was exhausting.

Main Street USA & Sleeping Beauty Castle, CA

Main Street USA and Cinderella Castle, FL

Different, yes, but both fun!

Hope you're enjoying your summer...