Tuesday, January 27, 2015

If You Like to Read....Read This! The Girl on the Train.

Y'all. This book.




I cannot put it down.

In the past year, I've been going through a drought - a good book drought.

In 2010, I was reading a good book every couple weeks: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Help, The Kitchen House, Room, The Hunger Games, etc. etc.

In 2012, there was Fifty Shades, so that was pretty memorable.

In 2013, I read Gone Girl and Dark Places. I read We Are Water. All good choices.

Last year, there's only one good book sticks out in my mind - Divergent.

Since last January, I've really struggled finding something to read. I've resorted to reading some oldies but goodies (i.e. Lord of the Flies), but I've really missed my constant stream of good books.

I keep searching. I keep reading reviews. I keep downloading samples on on the Kindle. I keep being disappointed.

Well, until now.

On Sunday morning, I saw that The Girl on the Train won an Amazon "Book of the Month" award. The plot sounded promising and the reviews were high, so I downloaded it on a whim.

I. Am. Addicted.

I could have cried this morning when I realized I accidentally left my book on the nightstand instead of bringing it to work with me to read on my lunch break.

Yes, I'm a nerd.

If you like to read, I would be doing you disservice not to tell you about this book.

But don't get your hopes up or anything.

Keep expectations low -- the lower the better -- and maybe you'll be thanking me later.

Also, if you have recommendations, send them my way!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A 27-Year-Old's Take on Social Media (Written by an Actual 27-Year-Old)

I read the following article tonight and thought it was interesting: A Teenager's View on Social Media.

After reading it, the mere fact that I'm writing this blog on Blogger and linking it to Facebook makes me feel ancient. When I was a teenager, there was dial-up internet, chat rooms, and AIM.

Here's my take on social media today....

Facebook

Facebook is like an old boyfriend that I just can't quit. It used to be fun and exciting, now it kinda sucks. I know it's bad for me and a huge waste of my time, but I just keep going back.

I joined thefacebook.com in 2005 when it was only for college students. There was one profile picture, some basic information, and the wall. Eventually it allowed for more pictures, which became a great way to keep photos organized in online albums. Back then I was not as concerned about posting pictures of underage drinking, college parties, etc., because no "grown-ups" were on Facebook yet (you had to have a college e-mail address to have an account).

Margaritas and tequila shots on the daily.

Wall posts were usually inside jokes between friends, and the posts weren't broadcast to everyone like they are today, so it was much more personal. My parents still aren't onboard the Facebook train, but now I have co-workers, family, in-laws, etc. who are all using Facebook, so it has changed the experience.

During the work week, I keep Facebook open in a separate tab and glance at it periodically throughout the day. I will "like" a few posts, but most of the statuses I see are pictures of babies, advertisements, or news stories.  I waste time reading comments on controversial stories that I really don't care about. I'll periodically post pictures from trips I've taken or do a "photo dump" of pictures I have stored on my iPhone of our dogs. 

I do not have the Facebook app on my phone, but for my age group, I'm probably in the minority here.

In the evenings and on the weekends, I try to avoid Facebook altogether because I'd rather spend time with Brian, Otis, and Pippa. I have considered getting rid of Facebook, but I feel trapped. It's useful to keep up with friends and family. Also, Facebook is like a time capsule of my college years, so looking back on some of my earliest wall posts brings back many great memories. I'd hate to lose that. I think there's a way to save my entire Facebook history on my hard drive, but I haven't taken the time to do that yet.

I'll probably continue to waste time on Facebook, but I think it will eventually fizzle out. 

Instagram

I got Instagram in 2010 before it was social. I used it to give my cell phone pictures an old, worn, sepia effect. I would just take pictures of random things. Now I think I have about 100 follow/followers on Instagram, primarily female. I check this app on my phone about once a day.

The posts I enjoy most are from those who are younger than me, specifically college-aged. When I read their picture captions or read their friends' comments, I'm often laughing....and Googling ("on fleek" anyone?). Their photo commentary is quite witty.

I also see a lot of "staged" posts on Instagram, as in here's a coffee mug, my daily planner, and some pink flower petals all perfectly sitting on this white desk. Kind of annoying, but I'm usually scrolling pretty fast.

Everything fell like this.

Blogger/Wordpress
Blogs are my favorite form of social media, and most blogs I'm familiar with are done on Blogger or Wordpress. I enjoy getting a glimpse into people's personal lives. I daily visit blogs for two reasons:

1. I know the actual person writing it, or
2. It's content I care about

Google+

I think I have a Google+ account because I use Gmail. That's all I know.

Google Chat ("G-Chat")

Is G-Chat social media? I don't know, but I'm including it because I love it. My husband and I primarily use this at work to check in with each other throughout the day. Since I'm on e-mail all day anyways, it's very convenient. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've ever called my husband while he's working. If we need to talk during the day or just want to say hi, G-chat is the way to go.

Pinterest

Pinterest is good for ideas. I'm on it about once or twice per week. Lately it's come in handy when trying to keep track of ideas for our house and yard, since I know we have some landscaping projects planned for this year. Most of my pins are things I will likely never do. 

MySpace

Does this still exist? I had a MySpace account very briefly in high school. I think my parents made me delete it, but I was indifferent because MySpace wasn't very cool.

When I was nineteen, I met my husband Brian. Brian was in his mid-twenties at the time, therefore clueless and out of touch. ;) I asked him if he was on Facebook and he told me he was on MySpace. I was embarrassed for him. The very next day, however, I created a MySpace account just so I could friend him. I remember hoping he wouldn't notice he and Tom were my only two friends!

Hey Tom

Twitter

I'm still confused by Twitter. My perception is that it's mostly used by celebrities, specifically Amanda Bynes.

Snapchat

I don't have Snapchat, but I have a vague idea what this app is about (pictures are "permanently deleted" after a few seconds). The teenager who wrote the original article said that it is quickly becoming the most popular social media network. Hmmm...to that I say there must be a lot of kids sending naughty photos. At least that's my perception. Why else would you want a photo to disappear after a few seconds?

Tumblr

Suri's burn book.

LinkedIn

I have a LinkedIn account. I provide no picture or information, so it's basically irrelevant. The only time I go on it is when I get an e-mail that tells me someone wants to connect.

Tinder

Being married, I'm not too familiar with the social media dating platforms, but I did get the opportunity to play matchmaker on Tinder using one of my guy friend's phones. It was surprisingly fun! I learned about swiping left vs. swiping right. I initially thought it was used mainly for hooking up with random strangers nearby, but perhaps people actually go on genuine dates. Not sure. If I was single, I would use it.

Swarm
Ello
Plague
Reddit
Medium
Yik Yak
........

????

No clue. No friggin' clue.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

World's Worst Dog Trainer

I used to think I was great at training dogs. I grew up with Border Collies, the #1 most intelligent breed. So that should tell you something.

To see what I'm dealing with now, watch the following video starting at minute 2:20.



English Bulldogs are stubborn. And not too bright.

I think what surprised me most about this breed is how powerful they are. I mean, Pippa is round and blubbery, but Otis is a whole 'nother ball game. He is one powerful dog.

Cesar Milan always talks about the responsibility that goes into owning a powerful breed. The reality is that these breeds can do serious harm if they're not well balanced (exercise...discipline...then affection!). Brian and I both are drawn to bully breeds - bulldogs, pit bulls, etc. Life would be much easier if we just got a Basset Hound!

We're lucky that Otis has calmed down significantly in the past year and has mellowed out quite a bit; however, every now and then he'll get in a mood. I like to call it....

Bat shit crazy.

(He snoozes 99% of the day. Saving up that energy so he can really pack a punch.)

I started a new agility class this week with Otis. Thursday night went well, so I'm excited again after taking a two month hiatus. This is our fourth class since last Fall, so he's getting quite good!

If anything, these classes help me more than they help Otis. At the beginning, it shed light on the fact that I am the World's Worst Dog Trainer. 

I am impatient. I get frustrated. I give up easily. 

The agility helps me develop a bond with Otis because we have to work together as a team. 

I first decided to take up agility with Otis after reading a blog post from Kevin & Amanda. I watched this video of the dog and handler competing and I literally cried tears of happiness at the end. 



Otis and I obviously aren't trying to win any agility titles.

If we ever want to compete in an actual competition, I'm going to need a lot more training.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Thoughts on Year Two

In case you missed it, here were my Thoughts on Year One.

Brian and I celebrated 2 years of marriage on November 3, 2014, so I'm only two months and three days late on writing this post.


(I made this little video. Six years of non-professional photos.)

Overall, I'd say Year Two was a better year. (If I'm being honest here, Year One was spent in the trenches, so there was really no where to go but up!)

I can't speak for Brian, but I'd say the second year was better as a whole, but the hard moments were harder. Fortunately, most of those hard moments led to personal growth.

Looking back on my first year's blog post, I discussed learning to change my attitude towards the little nuisances. I've tried not sweating the small stuff - the wet towel that's always on the bedroom floor; the empty water bottles that are left sitting on the counter, the coffee table, and the nightstand (grrrr!!!). I think I've done well.

One lesson I learned in Year Two is that I need to make more Love Bank deposits. I read about the Love Bank Concept in the book "His Needs, Her Needs." The idea (albeit cheesy) is that relationships have a Love Bank and everything you do is either depositing or withdrawing from the account. Early on in relationships, partners almost always make deposits. After a while, however, accounts start getting depleted. The slightest thing can become a withdrawal - annoying habits, insulting words, disputes, miscommunication. Basically, once your married, every day is like a massive withdrawal to the bank. You have to keep making deposits in order to balance it out.

I haven't mentioned this Love Bank Concept to Brian yet. If I did, he'd probably just look at me and say "you're withdrawing right now."

Well there you have it. Two years down. Hopefully I'll report back next year with an even better report!


Monday, January 5, 2015

Weekend Recap

Well, the first weekend of 2015 was a good one.

Brian and I both worked a short day on Friday, so our weekend was off to an early start. We met with a landscape designer that may be helping us improve our yard. We have some big plans for the house this year, so I'll keep everyone posted on our progress. Our house projects may end up dominating my blog in 2015. We'll see.

Friday night we met at Chili's for dinner with friends then went to one of our favorite local pubs, O'Malley's.

On Saturday, we did mostly car stuff. Brian is getting something installed in his Cobra and then he wanted to take the Jetta to Apex Tuning to diagnose a recent problem. Volkswagen problems - story of my life!

Saturday night we tried Chuy's, a new-ish Tex-Mex restaurant in Raleigh.


The place was packed. We're talking HOUR AND A HALF wait time. Typical North Hills. Unfortunately they don't take reservations. The food was good, but it wasn't any better than our usual spot, El Rodeo. It's hard to beat El Ro...fast, convenient, and cheap. I think Chuy's might be worth trying again in the summer. They have good outdoor seating and I can definitely picture myself enjoying a frozen margarita on the patio!

After dinner, we headed next door to Kings, a "classy bowling joint." Kings atmosphere felt like a combination of a bowling alley, hip hop club, pool hall, and fancy bar. It's as if they weren't sure of their target audience, so they tried to target everyone. We were just there to enjoy a few drinks with our friends. Bowling is not my thing. :-)

Sunday was mostly devoted to cleaning and grocery shopping. I cooked dinner for two of our friends and Brian bought "The Interview" on iTunes to stream.


Lasagna, salad, and garlic bread are always a crowd pleaser.
Pioneer Woman Lasagna Recipe
Caesar Salad with Homemade Dressing

Since we couldn't actually go to a theater to see The Interview, we re-created the experience at home. The hype and controversy surrounding the film made it more exciting. I thought the movie was surprisingly funny, but I didn't have any expectations.

I hope everyone else had a fun weekend too!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Pinterest Recipes. Where Good Intentions Come to Die.

I'm not a fan of using Pinterest for recipes. 

In my opinion, the photos are usually deceiving and the results are usually sub-par. Anyone can be a food blogger these days, take a good picture, and then post it to Pinterest. 

There's only two food bloggers whose recipes I always trust: The Pioneer Woman & Kevin and Amanda

If you want a recipe that is going to knock it out of the park every single time, look no further than my idol, Ina Garten. I know I mention the Barefoot Contessa a lot, but for good reason! I could read her lifestyle cookbooks a million times over - they are that good! I only need three more and then I will own the entire collection.

                              



Even though my previous Pinterest recipe attempts have left me disappointed, the pictures reel me in every time. 

I decided to make these Pinterest-inspired funfetti cake bars for our annual EKA Christmas gathering this year:

(Recipe from Crazy for Crust blog)

They looked delicious and the Pinterest caption was something along the lines of "YOU HAVE TO MAKE THESE! BEST DESSERT EVER!!!!!"

Was it the best dessert ever?

No.

Was it even close?

No.

I used Christmas jimmies to make them more festive. 

(Here's my attempt. Christmas jimmy style.)

We ate them and everyone seemed to think they were OK, but I would not make them again. The only reason I'm blogging about them now is so you can learn from my mistakes. 

Pinterest is great for many things, but I'm done testing the random recipes. 

Lucky for me, Erin and Ame are good test subjects. I knew my BFFs wouldn't care if I showed up with a crappy Pinterest dessert.

            

 12th annual (?) EKA Christmas. I'm not sure what year we're on - I've stopped counting.

EKA
EST. 7th grade

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Best Day of 2014

I intended to write this post last year, but better late than never, right?

So, my best day of 2014 was July 19th.

July 19th happens to be the day we got our newest bulldog, Pippa.
Don't get me wrong - Pippa is the apple of my eye - but she's not the reason July 19th was the best day of 2014.

July 19th was the day I flew a plane.

I have always been obsessed with aviation. It's not something I've ever talked about much, but when I'm on a plane, I feel present and focused on life in that moment. I feel a sense of calm that's hard to explain.

Mostly, I just think it's really fun.

Brian has told me he's afraid of heights, but he's a really great husband because he always indulges my whims.

For my birthday in May, Brian bought me an hour-long introductory flight lesson from Blue Line Aviation at RDU. Best birthday present ever!

To me, flying a plane seems extremely difficult and challenging, but that's why I was excited to learn. I need to be challenged. I need to do things outside of my comfort zone.

Life begins where your comfort zone ends!

So on July 19th, we headed to RDU and met my flight instructor Charles. Charles told me he'd do the take-off and landing, but once we got out of RDU airspace, I'd have about 45 minutes to fly the plane wherever I wanted to go.

"Um, excuse me Sir Charles, but do you realize I've never flown a plane before?"
Charles looked at me, relaxed, and said "I'm confident you'll do great."

So, with that, I said "let's get this party started!"


We hopped in an old Cessna (I'll call her Ol' Bessie) and I was a little nervous because Ol' Bessie looked like her time on Earth was done. Charles tried several times to get Ol' Bessie up and running, but her engine wouldn't start.

So Charles was like "Let's hop in this one over here. I've only flown it once in my life, and I'm not too familiar with this type of plane, but it's brand new!" (I'll call this plane The Wasp).

I remember looking at Brian, who agreed to go along for the ride, and thinking it was a good time to play my favorite game....

WOULD YOU RATHER.... be 3,000 feet in the air with familiar Ol' Bessie that's on her last leg -OR- be 3,000 feet in the air with the "I've only flown it once" Wasp?

In the end, I flew the Wasp. And Charles really did hand me the controls and let me fly it by myself for a good 45 minutes.

Holy cow, what an experience.

So, there you have it. My best day of 2014.

Getting my private pilot's license will involve a lot more time and money, so I'm not sure if I'll be pursuing that or not, but if I do, I'll take you up. 

My passengers told me it was a smooth ride.