Monday, November 24, 2014

Top 10 Books On My Winter To-Read List

Happy Tuesday, book friends! I love doing these quarterly TBR lists with The Broke and the Bookish, particularly as I've actually started referring to them as a guide for what to read next (which is probably the whole idea in the first place, duh!). I did really well with my Fall TBR List -- of the 14 books I mentioned I read nine of them, and I have one checked out and two on request at the library. Not too shabby!

There are tons of books I want to get to this winter, but only one winter 2015 release so far. I'm sure I'll be adding to my to-read list after looking at other bloggers' posts!

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
From the Goodreads summary:
An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse.
*It sounds like this will be a unique take on an apocalyptic plot. And the cover is gorgeous! I'm really excited to read this one.

2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
From the Goodreads summary:
A debut psychological thriller about a woman who becomes emotionally entangled in a murder investigation because of something she witnesses on her daily commute.

3. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography
From the Goodreads summary:
Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a guest stint on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your time as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, but make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!
*I don't read a lot of celebrity memoirs, but this is such a clever "why didn't I think of that" format that I can't resist!

4. Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre
From the Goodreads summary:
It’s the rule -- always watch your fives and twenty-fives. When a convoy halts to investigate a possible roadside bomb, stay in the vehicle and scan five meters in every direction. A bomb inside five meters cuts through the armor, killing everyone in the truck. Once clear, get out and sweep twenty-five meters. A bomb inside twenty-five meters kills the dismounted scouts investigating the road ahead.

Fives and twenty-fives mark the measure of a marine’s life in the road repair platoon. Dispatched to fill potholes on the highways of Iraq, the platoon works to assure safe passage for citizens and military personnel. Their mission lacks the glory of the infantry, but in a war where every pothole contains a hidden bomb, road repair brings its own danger.

5. The Forger by Bardford Morrow
From the Goodreads summary:
The rare book world is stunned when a reclusive collector, Adam Diehl, is found on the floor of his Montauk home: hands severed, surrounded by valuable inscribed books and original manuscripts that have been vandalized beyond repair. Adam's sister, Meghan, and her lover, Will -- a convicted if unrepentant literary forger -- struggle to come to terms with the seemingly incomprehensible murder. But when Will begins receiving threatening handwritten letters, seemingly penned by long-dead authors, but really from someone who knows secrets about Adam's death and Will's past, he understands his own life is also on the line -- and attempts to forge a new beginning for himself and Meg.

6. I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
From the Goodreads summary:
Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn't exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation….What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion.
*I need more thrillers and more series in my life. This fits both bills!

7. Neverhome by Laird Hunt
From the Goodreads summary:
An extraordinary novel about a wife who disguises herself as a man and goes off to fight in the Civil War.

8. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
From the Goodreads summary:
The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.
*Must read more classics! I'm so intrigued by the plot, which is about a society in which books are forbidden (gasp!).

9. The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
From the Goodreads summary:
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.
*I'm finally going to start this series!

10. The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant
From the Goodreads summary:
An inspiring story of survival and our powerful bond with man's best friend, in the aftermath of the nation's most notorious case of animal cruelty.
*"The Lost Dogs" is the first book on my Goodreads to-read list and I'm tired of looking at it every time I access my list. Plus it sounds like a great story. Grr, Michael Vick, grr!

Monday Musings 2

Do you ever have weeks where you're just in a funk? Where you're in a perpetual state of grumpiness, you feel like crap mentally and physically, everything seems just... blah, everyone you know gets on your nerves, and you just feel burnt out on your day-to-day life? Where you're fully aware that you're acting like a total bitch, yet you can't stop? That was me last week.

Here's hoping I can leave my melancholy mood behind and enjoy Thanksgiving week! For now, here are some of the good things that happened to me while I was busy being a grouch:

I spent Monday morning doing this:
Snow day! We had 3-4 inches of snow from Sunday to Monday and I got to go into work 2 1/2 hours late. And what better way to spend a snowy, cold morning than work on my Gryffindor scarf while watching "Harry Potter"?!

These arrived:
I've had my eye on these teal pointy-toe flats from Old Navy forever, but I never saw them at the store and I didn't want to pay $7 for shipping. Finally they went on sale -- and there was free shipping! You can bet I snatched these puppies up. How sweet are these shoes?!

I wore this:
I wear jeans a lot. Like, almost every single day of the year regardless of the season. They're my daily uniform. But this summer I bought a couple skirts hoping to branch out a bit. This one was too short to wear to work without something under it, but it looks pretty awesome with leggings. I took a step out of my comfort zone with this outfit and was rewarded with several compliments. Woo hoo!

We bought these:
Florida Georgia Line, baby! We went to see them with Jason Aldean in Columbus back in September, but it was a total clusterfuck getting into the concert and we missed half of FGL! This time they're going to be right here in Dayton and I couldn't be more excited to have a second chance to see my favorite country group!

I whipped this up:
That is one badass pom-pom, if I do say so myself! :)

We saw this:
It was really good, though I wasn't quite as blown away as I was with "Catching Fire." I'm already looking forward to the conclusion next year. I wonder what they'll do about Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character, or if they'd already done most of the filming before he died? If you've already seen "Mockingjay," what did you think? Ooh, and I really loved that Lorde song that played during the credits, "Flicker." Look it up if you like Lorde!

I discovered this guy:

I first heard "Take Me To Church" a few months ago (which is not actually about going to church at all, but rather more of a political commentary) and finally listened to Hozier's whole album on Spotify. What a gorgeous, soulful sound he has!

Friday, November 21, 2014

My Etsy Wish List: November

I just love Etsy and I could spend hours browsing all the lovely handmade wares. It's one of the best places to buy unique and beautiful gifts -- and my parents actually bought me two things from my July wish list for my birthday! (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) Below are several Etsy finds that have caught my eye in the past few months:
Etsy shop: ThatsmineBoutique
Price: $35
I love the contrasting colors of this long pendant necklace! I saw it on my favorite fashion blog, Putting Me Together, and instantly wanted it for myself!

Etsy shop: TheRockStarGoddess
Price: $36+

Etsy shop: ColoradoJoes
Price: $90
This is a mini replica of the sign that welcomes drivers to my home state of Colorado! It's a little overpriced, I think, but so cool!

Etsy shop: HappyLetterShop
Price: $75+
Hardee-har! I would probably never pay this much for a wooden sign, but I love the saying and the rustic look. It'd be perfect for the kitchen!

Etsy shop: craftedvan
Price: $4.57
This card just cracked me up! The shop has all kinds of punny and clever greeting cards, but this was my favorite.

Etsy shop: boygirlparty
Price: $20 for a 6x6 print
It's a knitting sock-topus! This shop has lots of fun illustrations turned into art prints, stationery and jewelry.

Etsy shop: DogCityandCo
Price: $16
Love this boxer tote! The shop has several different dog breed bags, shirts and more.

Etsy shop: Roostic
Price: it's sold so I can't see for sure, but the rest are all $37
I use my iPad more and more for recipes and I love this cutting board-style stand for the kitchen. The red is perfect!

Etsy shop: chicdays
Price: $14.99
Teal and foxes: a perfect combo!

Etsy shop: BackBayPottery
Price: sold :(
These little ceramic mountain necklaces are so pretty. As much as I love the beach, I'll always be a "mountains" girl. I've already bought a few things from this shop and they've been fantastic!

Etsy shop: ZenThreads
Price: $18
Something good to wear to work. Lots of color choices, too!

Price: $24.50
Something else good to wear to work!

Etsy shop: flapperdoodle
Price: 6 notecards for $10
I love everything in this shop! There's so much fun book-themed art that I just picked one at random for this post. I particularly love all the different the notecards!

Etsy shop: blockpartypress
Price: $40
More books!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Knitting FO: Knitted Cupcake

Maggie's Cupcake
Pattern: Cupcake by Eva McDonald
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Strawberry and Vanna's Choice in Beige

I whipped up this cupcake as a going-away gift for my wonderful boss at the library, Maggie. She loves baking and was always supplying us with the tastiest cupcakes, so I thought I'd return the favor in non-edible form!

I loved looking through the Ravelry project pages for this pattern and seeing how everyone modified their cupcakes and decorated them differently. Cherries, strawberries, flowers and more topped them off. Some cupcakes had purled frosting while others had stockinette like mine. Some knitters used another yarn color to represent a peek of cake between the liner and the frosting. It was so fun to see how everyone's creative juices gave their cupcakes unique personalities.

I knew I wanted my cupcake to have bright pink frosting and that was no trouble, but I desperately wanted colored sprinkles and I just could not find the proper beads -- at least not by my deadline. In the end, I settled for rectangular clear beads with flashes of silver, which I thought could pass for big sugar crystals.

Some people used a pudding or fruit cup to stabilize the base of their cupcakes, but since I didn't have either of those I used some plastic pellets I had left over from my knitted rabbits. It stands up pretty well but doesn't have any hard edges, which I like.

I was pretty pleased with my little knitted dessert. The only danger is that it'll sit on Maggie's new desk and make her crave real cupcakes. (If so, sorry Maggie!)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Monday Musings

Hi all! One of my New Year's resolutions was to write more personal posts on the blog, and I have to say I've failed woefully on that count! So I have decided -- under the wire, since it's already(!!!) November -- to start writing a post every Monday wherein I tell you how things are going for me -- what I'm watching, what's stressing me out, what cool (or horrible) new store/recipe/yarn I tried. So here goes!

What's on my needles:
After years of fantasizing about it, I'm finally knitting a Gyrffindor house scarf! I ordered yarn from Knit Picks but wasn't happy with the yellow color (too dark and brownish) and ended up just snagging a skein of Vanna's Choice acrylic at Hobby Lobby the other day. Since I chose to do the scarf worn in the later years, there's not a ton of yellow and I figured it didn't matter much if it wasn't wool. And it's still nice and soft!

Since the Gryffindor's colors are scarlet and gold I'm a little worried people will think it's a Washington Redskins scarf, so I'm planning to buy an iron-on Gryffindor patch to adorn it. I've learned recently that not everyone knows about Harry Potter -- as evidenced by the elderly gentleman at work who thinks I'm a Wiccan because of my Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry shirt, and the surprising number of people who thought my Hermione Halloween costume was a graduation robe. Sigh. The unenlightened.

The other day I came across a delightful free hat pattern, Floppy Fairisle by FatCatKnits, and knew right away that I would be knitting it up. It's been a while since I've done any colorwork (Gryffindor stripes don't count!) and I'm looking forward to it. The hat takes five colors of yarn and for once I have a plethora of options -- so many beautiful color combinations that I can't decide! The bottom two would match my teal winter coat the best, but they're all so wonderful. Initially I had envisioned the upper right combo -- taupe, cream, olive, navy and pink (that yarn is called Dusty and is really a lovely pink, not the coral it looks in the picture). No matter what I choose, it will be the squishiest, funnest and most colorful hat in my pile of winter accessories!
yarn choices

What's on my TV:
It's basically winter here in Ohio and my hibernation instinct is starting to kick in. It's dreary, it's cold, and half the time all I want to do is curl up with a blanket, a cup of coffee, the fireplace chugging away and something good on the TV in front of me. And have I ever been watching some good stuff lately!

First off, Jarrod and I FINALLY decided to watch "Sherlock," the BBC's iteration of the Sherlock Holmes tale. I already love the movies with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, the CBS show "Elementary," and the Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell mysteries by Laurie R. King, so I just knew I would be hooked instantly. Benedict Cumberbatch (can you even think of a more wonderfully British-sounding name than that?!) plays a perfect aloof, stunningly intelligent, condescending and yet sexy Sherlock, and all the other casting is spot-on. We especially like Moriarty's creepy, kooky character. If you haven't watched "Sherlock" yet, DO IT! The only bad thing is that the three seasons only constitute 9 episodes. Sure, they're an hour and a half each, but I want more! I've held off on starting season 3 because I don't want to wait until 2016 for more episodes!

I also watched "Begin Again," the music-themed movie starring Kiera Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine. I felt like it would either be cheesy or awesome, and luckily it was awesome! I really enjoyed the music and even put some of the soundtrack songs on my Spotify playlist. I particularly like "Lost Stars" by Adam Levine.

And over the weekend I watched the second season of "The Bletchley Circle," a British drama about four women who were codebreakers during WWII and now, 10 years later, are languishing away as housewives and secretaries. Until, that is, they put their intellect to good use to solve crimes! Love the British post-war atmosphere and the characters! Unfortunately, there will be no season 3 as it's been canceled. :(

What's on my mind:
I was a bit horrified (though not really surprised) to hear Christmas music blaring overhead when I was at the grocery store last week. A few people in the neighborhood already have Christmas trees winking at me through their windows. Christmas commercials are all over the TV. Black Friday ads are cluttering up my mailbox and my inbox.

I love Christmas -- from the peppermint mochas to the Hallmark Christmas movies to the paper snowflakes to the tree trimming -- but I just don't get it! Part of the appeal of the Christmas season is that it's only one month out of 12. That's what makes it special. Starting Christmas the day after Halloween makes the traditions, the cozy feelings, the general festive air lose some of their luster -- not to mention makes all the Scrooges out there extra-irritable! This is a public service announcement: Starting Christmas earlier and earlier every year is ruining the joy of the season! (And it makes Thanksgiving feel bad about itself because its former position of glory has become a minor pit-stop on the stampede to get to Christmas. Don't you feel bad for Thanksgiving?!)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Knitting FO: Ruffled Boot Toppers

 Crunchy Leaves and Warm Legs
Pattern: Julia Boot Cuff by Heidi Hennessy
Yarn: Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool in Oatmeal

So I knit up these boot toppers way back in September and have yet to wear them. It's not really the boot toppers' fault. It's that, after last year's polar vortex, downright frigid temperatures, snow, ice, sleet and general misery, I don't want it to be winter yet. I spent six months in boots last year and I'm in no hurry to repeat that, so this year I'm wearing flats as long as my feet can handle it.

Plus my old boots died and I haven't found a proper replacement yet. (RIP Best Boots Ever. Not those pictured, by the way. Those suck, literally. I think they may be vampire boots because they like to make my feet bleed.)
Here's a secret: I detest paying for knitting patterns, especially ones I could figure out myself if I wanted to take the time. And this one was $6!! That's quite a lot, considering you could go to the store and buy a pair of already-made boot toppers for that price. But the toppers were exactly what I was looking for: buttons, ruffles, just a little bit feminine. So Paypal handed over my 6 smackeroos and I was the proud owner of a lovely but rather overpriced pattern.

The fantasy boot toppers in my head were knit in a soft, pretty tan yarn, but lo and behold the yarn of my imagination apparently does not exist at JoAnn or Michael's (and for some reason I felt like I needed to knit these puppies THAT DAY), so I then shelled out $11 for a humongous skein of Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool, the only non-shiny tan-ish yarn I could find. What on earth I will do with the rest of the 450+ yards I have no clue, because it's scratchy as hell!
 The pattern was pretty quick to work up and I do have to give props to the designer. The method for doing the ruffles is really clever, and the finished product is just what I'd hoped for. Unfortunately, the toppers are a bit small on my large calves so the ruffles don't lie down flat, but they're still cute. Now I just have to find a pair of non-vampire boots to wear them with. (And something to knit with a bunch of itchy tan wool!)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Mini Reviews: "Ugly Love" and "The Ocean at the End of the Lane"

3.75 stars and 3.5 stars

Hello, friends! I've hardly done any blogging lately because of a few busy weeks in a row -- and our lovely trip to Smoky Mountain National Park -- so I decided to combine two book reviews in this post. Interestingly, the covers kind of fit together. Both blue, both water-themed. It was meant to be!


"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman
First published in 2013
178 pages
My rating: 3.75 out of 5

This was a perfect little novel to read around Halloween, since it involves monsters and unnatural happenings. I really had no idea what this book was about going in, and it's probably best that way so I won't spoil anything for you. It's told from the perspective of a middle-aged British man remembering some horrible, unbelievable events that happened when he was a boy of 7, living in a little house on a lane in the country.

This was my first Neil Gaiman book and, after getting used to it, I really liked his writing style. It's just unique enough to be special but not irritating. "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is a really more of a novella at less than 180 pages, and it reads like a spooky fireside tale. I enjoyed the story, but I guess I somehow wanted there to be more. It was an interesting, eerie novel, but what was the point?

I would probably read another Neil Gaiman book in the future, and I'm glad to have finally had my introduction to this author. Maybe I'll try one of his kids' books, like "Fortunately, the Milk." And if you're at all compelled to pick up "The Ocean at the End of the Lane," do it! It's so quick that you won't be losing out if you don't like it.


"Ugly Love" by Colleen Hoover
First published in 2014
322 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5

"New adult" author Colleen Hoover has legions of fans, and they would probably vehemently disagree, but for me "Ugly Love" was pretty much "50 Shades of Grey"-lite.

Sexy boy haunted by dark past -- check.
Girl totally and completely infatuated with boy, even though she knows he'll break her heart -- check.
Lots of steamy sex -- check.
Boy closed off to love, girl is convinced she can change his mind -- check.

Miles' secret is pretty damn dark and depressing, just like Christian Grey's. Tate is far more independent than Anastasia Steele, but she would still walk to the ends of the earth and get her heart torn to shreds for Miles. They agree to have a sex-only relationship and proceed to have plenty of hook-ups, but they just have regular sex and none of that "50 Shades" soft-and-faded-jeans craziness. See -- "50 Shades of Grey"-lite!

To be fair, just because Hoover's plot mirrors that of "50 Shades" doesn't mean she's another E.L. James. Hoover is actually a decent writer, and though I found the book to be kind of cliche and predictable (except for Miles's terrible secret, once we finally got the big reveal), I would probably read more of her books.

This is my first experience with the recently invented genre of new adult and it seems to consist of twentysomethings, romance, sex and some slightly deeper plotlines than a typical YA book. Not your mother's romances, but not something you'd want your teenager to read either.
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