Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Year by Numbers

Hello last day of 2016. 

Once again it's time to say goodbye to another year.  And while I know a lot of people say 2016 was the worst year ever but not so much for me.  Sure there were some bad times, but for me the good outweighed the bad.  But I am eager for a new year to start.  

Last year I recapped 2015 by doing a "year by numbers" and I really enjoyed doing it.  So that's what y'all are getting again this year!! 

Let's take a little walk through 2016!  




{5} The number of cities I traveled to.  This year I visited five US cities.  Washington, D.C. being the big trip of the year!  I also visited Atlanta to meet niece number three! Fredericksburg, Texas for Jenny's bachelorette weekend.  Lawrence, Kansas to see Suzanne for a whopping 36 ish hours, totally worth it though.  and finally to Orlando.  Even though I'm not sure that should count since I go there literally every year, at least twice a year.

July - Washington, D.C. 


 



September- Atlanta, GA



November - Fredericksburg, TX Jenny's Bachelorette Weekend


{5,524} Number of miles flown. 


{219} The number of Instagram pictures I posted. To be honest this number surprises me, I thought I had posted WAY more picture this year than that, but apparently not.


{10,106} The number of total likes on those 219 pictures.  Last year I posted 600 pictures and had a little over 12,000 likes.  So basically I posted less then half the amount of pictures this year and got more than half as many likes.  I think my Instagram really stepped up its game this year!

{2} Weddings I attended!  My friend Molly got married in Florida in May.  It was great seeing my Florida family!  And my bestie Jenny was married here in Katy in November!

Molly's Wedding- May



Jenny's Wedding- November 



{50} The number of books I read!  Yay for meeting my goal!

{2, again} Number of visits to Disney World!


May 2016

December 2016


{91} Number of blog posts posted this year.  I didn't blog as much as did last year but I'm just glad that this little space of mine is still going fairly strong.

{2, and again}  Number of bloggers I met in real life!  The first was Ashley from the Wandering Weekenders.  She and I have actually become really good friends!  We went around to all the murals here in Houston, we had a birthday photo shoot (we were both born in March) and I even went to her hubby's 30th birthday party this summer!  I'm really excited to see what we get into in 2017!




The second blogger I met was Jenn from Going the Distance!  I met her while we were in Washington DC this summer.  I'd been reading Jenn's blog for like.....wow 6 years I guess and so it was great to finally meet her in person!! I'm gonna be going to the DC area again this summer and I really hope I'll be able to see her and meet her new baby girl too!


{4,579} Number of views on my most read post of 2016, Exploring Houston: Murals of the City.  This was one of the first blates I had with Ashley from The Wandering Weekenders.



{1,000,000} The number of times my heart swelled when I saw my friend Jordan's new baby Brynn.  I said the something last year when my bestie Ashley had her littler girl Lacey.  And it is no different with Brynn.  She is the cutest thing EVER!  I am so lucky to be the aunt of such adorable little girls!






One also covers the number of blog conferences I went to.  I absolutely loved going to Thrive in February.  It gave me so much confidence as a blogger.  I was really hoping I would be able to go to Thrive in 2017 but it doesn't look like that's gonna happen.




{6}  The number of times I took pictures for friends!  One of my goals for 2016 was to take more pictures and I think I accomplished that pretty well!  I was the photographer for my friend Brandi
s wedding in Febraury.  I took pictures a few times for my friend Rebekah.  Bluebonnet pictures were taken for my friend Brittny and her fiancé.  And I also took Christmas card pictures for my friend Nathaly and Josie!  Oh and obviously during Brynn's first trip to Disney World!





{1} The number of new apartments I moved into...ON MY OWN!  This was probably the biggest change of 2016.  For the first time EVER I moved into an apartment all by my lonesome.  I still haven't sat down and really written out how that's going.  I plan too, just haven't done it yet.




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So long 2016!  Bring it on 2017!

Happy New Year friends! See ya next year! :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Show Us Your Books: Best Books of 2016


This year I set a goal to read 50 books.  To some that sounds like a lot and others not enough but clearly it was just the right amount for me because I now have just one book left to read in order to meet my goal.

I've read some great, good, and ok books this year and so when I saw that Jana and Steph were doing a "Best of 2016" book link up I knew I had to participate.  I've been linking up with them for their "Show Us Your Books" link up for the last few months and it's been one of my favorites from 2016.  I've gotten some great recommendations from their link up and I'm excited to keep it going in 2017.

When it came time to choose my best of 2016 books, I couldn't decide what criteria I would use to determine which were my ultimate favorite books of the year.  So I narrowed it down to a few things. If the book did more than three of the following I would add it to my list:

1. Made me laugh out loud while I was reading it.
2. Made me cry.  And I mean like ugly cry.
3. I kept thinking about the book days or weeks after I was done.
4. I recommended it to someone more than once.

Thankfully there were 7 books (probably more if I put a little more thought into it) who did just that.

And here they are:

Me Before You: When I read this book I laughed, I ugly cried, and I thought long and hard about what I would do if I had been in Will's position and then I ugly cried some more.  I loved this book.  And even thoroughly enjoyed the movie too.  And I can totally see myself re-reading sometime in the future.  


Fan Girl:  I haven't reviewed this one yet, but I LOVED IT.  I can't believe it's taken me this long to read it.  I started this at around 3 o'clock in the afternoon and couldn't put it down.  I was up until about 1 AM because I wanted to finish it.  As someone who used to read Harry Potter fan fiction (I know it's so embarrassing but I loved it) I could totally relate to Olive.  I really wish the author would write a sequel.  More on the rest of my thoughts in my next book post! :)  


Lilac Girls and The Nightingale:  These two books were my favorite historical fiction books of 2016.  They both were amazing.  Once again I ugly cried while reading both of them and couldn't stop thinking about them after I was done. WWII historical fiction is probably my favorite genre and I cannot say enough things about these two books.  Especially The Nightingale.  Just trust me and add it to your TBR for 2017 if you haven't already read it! 



A Gathering of Shadows:  This was another book I finished during this month and have yet to properly review.  It's the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic.  The sequel was so much better than the first book, in my opinion.  It took me a while to really get into the first book but I could not put down the second one.  Thus why it made the list.  It had so many great parts and new characters that I am now eagerly awaiting book number three!  Come on 2017!!

A Court of Thorns and Roses AND A Court of Mist and Fury:  LOVED THEM.  Like that's all there is too it.  This was my second favorite of the year and all I can say is that you haven't discovered the greatness that is Sarah J Maas you are missing out on life.  I am dying for third book in this particular series which is out in May I believe.  

Which brings me to my favorite book (series) of 2016..........


Throne of Glass Series: Y'all, I read every single book in this series this year and it was by far my favorite.  The story, the characters, the magic, the whole world is amazing.  I had honestly forgotten that I had only just read each book in the series this year because it feels like I've been reading them for years.  There are currently 5 in the series (6 if you could the prequel) and they are everything.  I found out about them through the book club I'm part of with some other teachers from school and we could literally talk about them for hours.  Best part is they are turing the series into a TV show.  The whole series is slated to be covered and I could not be more excited!!  

Seriously Sarah J Maas is the best and you should be reading her books! :)

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Well there ya have it.  My best book of 2016.  I had a great year of reading and I am so excited to see what books I get through in 2017.  Fingers crossed it's a great reading year! 

Linking up with Jana and Steph for the last time in 2016!

Life According to Steph
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Monday, December 26, 2016

A Very Merry Weekend

Happy day after Christmas friends!  I don't know about y'all but my Christmas was just about perfect.   I really liked that Christmas fell on a weekend this year.  It feels fitting somehow that Christmas and the new year will start on a Sunday.



Anyway, as I was saying this Christmas was just about as perfect as a Christmas can be.  So without further ado.....here were the highlights:

FRIDAY: Christmas Eve Eve




Friday was literally the laziest day I've had in a long time.  I spent two night with my bestie and her family and drove home Friday around noon.  I literally stayed in PJs for the rest of the day and laid around the rest of the day.  I finished up the book I had been listening to on my long drive across Texas, (by the way: stay tuned tomorrow for my top books of 2016!) and started another.  Which I was finished in a single day, I now have just two books left in my challenge.  Piece of cake.  We finished up the night watching a movie as a family. 


SATURDAY: Christmas Eve


Christmas Eve kicked off with a lazy morning at home with coffee and some yummy biscotti that Ashley made while I was at her place earlier in the week.  Thankfully I had done all my Christmas shopping, so I didn't have a run out and get any last minute things.  So instead the day was filled with Christmas movies!  I was finally able to watch one of my favorite Christmas time movies, Meet Me in St. Louis and even saw a holiday movie I had never seen, Holiday Affair.  

The highlight of the day was heading out to Christmas Eve dinner.  My dad decided that we were going to start a new Christmas Eve tradition and go out to dinner.  Apparently they used to do that with my grandparents until one of my aunts ruined it by refusing to attend the dinner since she couldn't control my cousin while the family was out to dinner.  We had dinner at Ruth's Chris, a very tasty steak house.  We were pleased with the overall meal but sadly the service was a little lacking that night.  Nonetheless we had a great dinner.  Afterwards we drove around downtown and looked at the Christmas lights.  It's the start of a great Christmas tradition!  

Once we all got home it wasn't long before we were all snug in bed, waiting for Santa! :)  

(We were lame and didn't take any pictures...so here's one I took at Disney at the beginning of the month!)

SUNDAY: Christmas Day




Christmas Day around my house is a little different than most of my friends right now.  Neither my brother nor I have a spouse or kids so no one is up at the crack of dawn anymore waiting dying to see what Santa brought.  At least not yet!  But my mom still likes to spoil us with stockings hung one our fireplace.  We all enjoyed some coffee and The Santa Clause while we waited for my brother to get up and then we had a nice leisurely half hour or so opening presents. 

 My mom found me the cutest entry way table for my apartment and she got me a few other kitchen items that I don't have.  Some cash and perfume rounded out my gifts for this Christmas.  I went the technology route this year when it came to the gifts I gave my parents and brother.   I got my brother and Dad each a Kindle Fire but I was most excited to give my mom her gift.  She's still carrying around an iPhone 4!  Yep, you read that right, a 4!!  So my brother and I decided to go in together and surprise her with a new iPhone 7.  I was so excited to give it to her I almost couldn't wait till Christmas morning but she was so excited when she opened it!  It's gonna be a big adjustment going from a 4 to a 7 and it'll be fun watching her figure out all the stuff she can do with the 7 that she couldn't with the 4!

After presents we had a tasty breakfast and then got ready for church.  It was a lovely Christmas filled service complete with a few of my favorite Christmas hymns.  After church we headed to our Christmas Day tradition, the movies.  This year my choice was overrode and we went to see Why Him?  I'll be honest, I had pretty low expectations for this movie but it was surprisingly hilarious.  

Following the movie we came back to the house and had a nice relaxing rest of our evening.  Mom started cooking Christmas dinner, this year it's Pozole, a Mexican soup type dish.  Little different then your traditional turkey or ham but just as delicious!  

One of the biggest perks of the day was when I won $150 on a scratch off!  My parents always put a few in our stockings and together my brother won about $13, after the movie we decided to swing by the convenient store and "double down" our winnings.  Which apparently means buying more scratches offs.  My brother bought 6 more tickets and wouldn't you know it, I won!!  We decided to split anything we won, so tomorrow I'll be about 75 bucks richer!  Woo hoo!

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Overall, Christmas 2016 was fantastic.  It was everything Christmas should be, relaxing and full of love and laughter.  Now it's time to enjoy the last few days of 2016!

I hope y'all all had the merriest of Christmas's!

Linking up with Biana! :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Your Next Favorite Book: The "ember" Months

I missed last months link up of my reading list because in the month of October I literally read two books and that was it.  But thankfully I got back on track with my book reading in November so here I am!

I am officially 5 books away from meeting my reading challenge.  So that means once school is over on Friday I will be in reading overdrive to get them done before January 1st!  But I've got some good ones lined up for my final five so getting through them will not be a struggle at all! :)

Alright so here is what I read in what I'm calling the "ember months" of October and November!




I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis: “They think I am still a little girl who is not capable of being a Queen.”

Lord Melbourne turned to look at Victoria. “They are mistaken. I have not known you long, but I observe in you a natural dignity that cannot be learnt. To me, ma’am, you are every inch a Queen.”


In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….

Drawing on Victoria’s diaries as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen even more richly to life in this magnificent novel.

My thoughts:  I was able to read this book on my flights to and from Orlando two weekends ago.  I LOVED IT.  I love reading about Queen Victoria's early years of ascending the throne at 18 and meeting and actually falling in love with Prince Albert.  I first fell in love with her story when I saw The Young Victoria with Emily Blunt.  Such a good movie and one you need to see if you haven't.  This book follows the same story but I love the authors voice.  I've read a few other Daisy Goodwin books and have really enjoyed them.  She wrote the script for the show Victoria that is premiering on January 15th on PBS.  From what I've gathered the book is basically the script of the tv show so I'm pretty sure I already know what happens.  But I'm hoping that there will be a season 2 that will go further into her story.  Anywho, loved the book, it gather me all the feels as I was on the plane and I may have teared up just a tad towards the end.  But don't worry they were happy tears, not sad ones!



Goodreads Synopsis: Erin Crawford is a relationship blogger with a bucket list and a vendetta. After years of horrible luck in relationships, she decides to start a blog called "30 First Dates." Her mission: go out with 30 men before her 30th birthday, all to find a non-jerk in 30 dates or less. As she blogs about her sometimes humorous and sometimes laughably bad dates, she crosses off her bucket list of 30 things she wants to do before she turns 30—and kills two birds with one stone by completing the items on her dates! In fourteen months she skydives, skinnydips, crashes a wedding, travels to multiple cities and lives way outside her comfort zone. The only question is, as her birthday approaches and her list grows smaller, will Erin be able to find love? Or is she destined to be a first-date-only kind of girl?

My thoughts: THIS BOOK!!! First of all, I loved it.  It was light and fluffy and exactly what I needed a few days ago. Second of all it literally felt like the author has been stalking my life.  There are so many parallels to my life and Erin's.  It was a little scary to be honest.  I even called and told some of my besties about it and they agreed that a lot of the things in Erin's like parallel mine.  For example...she's 28 when the book starts and I'm 28.  She has a 30 by 30 list and so do I (and everyone else but still).  She's a teacher, I'm a teacher.  She decides to start a blog to chronicle going on 30 first dates by the time she's 30 and I have a blog too. Granted it's not about chronicling my dates but I have talked about my dating experience before.   Anyway, needless-to-say I was totally enthralled the entire time and really liked the book.  I'm dying to know what happens next and thankfully I found out that a sequel is coming out on January 3rd!  So I'll get to find out what happens next! WOO HOO!   If you're 28-30, have a blog, are single....this is the book for you! 





Goodreads Synopsis: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend. 

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

My thoughts:  Ok so I borrowed this book from one of my 8th graders.  I remember seeing it somewhere in blog world but I can't remember where exactly, then saw one of my students reading it so I asked her if I could borrow it.  It was light and fluffy and full of high school angst and I loved every minute of it.  After reading so much fantasy in September and October is was nice to get back to some "real world" (and I use that term lightly) with this.  I liked how real Anna was.  She wasn't your picture perfect brunette, so I can see how teenagers (and a few 20-somethings like myself) would easily be able to relate to her.  Plus who doesn't wish their parents had sent them to school in PARIS!  Ummmm I DO!!  




Goodreads Synopsis: Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

My thoughts:  Another sequel, but in this books case I read the first one 6 months ago.  Thankfully the author did a good job of reminding you what happened as she moved the story along.  Loved getting so many different perspectives in this.  Helped see so many different sides of the story.  Can't wait for book 3!



Goodreads Synopsis:  The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

My thoughts:  This was the other book I read in October.  It's the sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn, which I read in September.  I like that its a two book story, since there are so many trilogies out there these days, but I will say I'm having a hard time remembering how this one officially ended.  Clearly it wasn't all that memorable since I can't remember how it ended, like at all.  But I do remember feeling satisfied when all was said and done.  So there's that.  Read it if you read the first one! 



Goodreads Synopsis:  In her New York Times bestselling and Morris Award-winning debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages. Eragon-author Christopher Paolini calls them, "Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy."

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

My thoughts:  I found this book back at the beginning of October while wandering around the public library.  I'd been on a bit of a fantasy kick at the time and thought it would be good.  And while it was it took me FOREVER to finish it.  I enjoyed the overall story and even checked out the sequel but have yet to read it.  It's a very elaborate story with lots of detail that I guess I just wasn't quite in the mood for after all.  Nonetheless I did enjoy it and will eventually read the sequel......I think.  Honestly it's a take it or leave it book for me when all is said and done.  


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Wasn't that so much more fun than just reading about the two books I read in October, especially considering I didn't even care for them all that much.  My November books were much more entertaining and enjoyable than the October ones.  But hopefully you've found one or two here that will make it on your own TBR list! 

Linking up with Jana and Steph! Off to find some more to add to my ever growing TBR list! :)


Life According to Steph

Monday, December 12, 2016

What You Missed



I let the blog get away from me last month.  Per usual life got in the way and this little space of mine took a back seat.

But there is officially one week of school left before Christmas break and my time is about to really open up.  Thank god.  Between traveling, school, and basketball I am exhausted.  Thus why I've been asleep on the couch by about 7:30pm every night and haven't made an appearance on the blog since October.

A lot has been going on in these parts.  Here's a lovely little life update to catch everyone up to speed!

1. Thanksgiving!


This year we spent Thanksgiving with my uncle and aunt in College Station.  My bestie was getting married the Saturday after and since the whole family was invited, my parents and brother, came to my part of Texas for the week.  We've never really done Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family so it was great to spend some time with them!

2. Another friend tied the knot!



Jenny got married over the Thanksgiving break and it was absolutely GORGEOUS!  It was super classy and elegant and everyone had a fantastic time.  This was wedding number 6 for me, as far as being a bridesmaids goes...I have now out done the "three times a bridesmaid, never a bride" saying twice over now.  womp womp

3. Christmas decor is up and about in my apartment.



Obviously!  I have loved the Christmas decor in my little apartment this year.  It totally makes the place feel way more homey and I wish I could keep it up all year long.  But then, I guess that would take away from the excitement of the season huh!  I will definitely be enjoying it while I can though!



4. Another round of Christmas card pictures in the books.

Nathaly and Family




Jason, Josie and Abby






This year I took Christmas card pictures for two friends from work.  Round one was my friend Nathaly and her family and round two was with Josie and Jason, who I took photos for last year!  I am really pleased with how both sessions turned out.  Photography has really become a hobby of mine and I am loving it!

5.  A weekend at the most magical place on earth!












That's right, another trip to Disney is under my belt.  But this trip was extra special because it was the first trip to Disney World for Brynn, my bestie Jordan's adorable little girl.  She's 4 months old now and will not remember a single moment of the trip (obviously) but the rest of us will and that's what matters!  I got some amazing pictures of the trip and am once again so very glad I bought my Canon camera.  It really has been one of my best purchases.

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It's been an eventful few weeks and I know with Christmas just a few weeks ago, it's gonna be even more so.  This little space of mine has been neglected for far to long now and I plan on changing that as we wrap up 2016 and say hello to 2017!

Have a great Monday!

Linking up with Biana, even though this isn't at all about my weekend! :)