Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Most popular posts of the year!

As the year comes to a close, I always enjoy recapping my year. Today I’m sharing the most popular posts of 2015, as determined by the most page views during the year. It’s always interesting to see what ends up on this list and I enjoy looking back at my past year of blogging. My Succulent Terrarium has grown so much since I took this photo!


       DIY Glitter Champagne Bottles      My Succulent Terrarium         San Francisco

I'm obsessed with skin care products and makeup techniques, even though I may not post about it much. I'm always checking magazines for the latest and greatest products. Right now I'm really into natural skincare and will post about that soon. Some of my beauty posts had the most hits this year.

                Winter Skin Savers                    MAC Cosmetics Haul          MAC Flat Out Fabulous
                 Matcha Green Tea Mask        June Beauty Faves          How to stop makeup flashback

Organization
                   An Organized Entry           Folding Clothes Vertically         Reorganizing my Kitchen


Personal Development

I hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy writing it. I love reading comments from my readers! The easiest way to keep up with your favorite blogs is to use Bloglovin. It's like pinterest but for blogs! You'll get a daily email with a summary of all the new posts from the blogs that you follow so you never miss anything! Bloglovin makes reading blogs fun and easy! It's takes 30 seconds to sign up, it's easy, no ads, there's no catch. There's even a free App for iphones. So be sure to subscribe to my blog so you never miss a post!


Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Favorite Books of the Year

I set a reading challenge goal of 35 books for the year since I read 26 books last year. Well this year  I read 53 books! I kept track of this on goodreads, I absolutely love that site, it's a great way to find new books and keep track of the books you've read. It will transfer over any purchases you've ever made from amazon. I also get book ideas from my bookclubs - which was one of my post popular posts of the year along with my Audible review.

You wonder where I found the time? I could say in my spare time but really who has spare time right? I love to cook, I go to the gym most evenings and do have a very active social life. My reading was done mostly in bed at night on my kindle, on vacation, or during my lunch break at work where I went to the gym and sat on the bike to read for 45 minutes, my supplemental workout. I always bring my lunch to work so I need something to do during my lunch break. When it's nice outside I will go for a walk, but that's only spring and fall when it's not raining.

My favorite reading genres are historical fiction and memoirs. Historical fiction is a literary genre where the author is writing about a particular time in history so the information about the time period must be accurate. thus the authors has researched the time period thoroughly. I was a history major in college and love to travel so it's fascinating for me to read a story that took place in another country in a past year. All of my book reviews are here.

Historical Fiction


The Nightingdale - won 2015 goodreads choice awards for historical fiction and remains in amazon's top books
The Architect Apprentice
All the Light We Cannot See - still in amazon's top 10 books and NY Times top 5 books
The Miniaturist
The Light Between the Oceans - the movie is currently being filmed
The Signature of All Things - by the author of Eat Pray Love
The Piano Teacher
Orphan Train - will be made into a movie
The Paris Winter
Zookeepers wife - the movie is currently being filmed

Memoirs











 
Leah Remini
Mindy Kaling
Chelsea Handler
Holly Madison
Hope Solo
Amy Purdy
Misty Copeland
Amy Poehler
Drew Barrymore

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I hope your Christmas sparkles with happiness and joy! With the true meaning of Christmas be sure to fill your heart with generosity to others and appreciate your blessings. Here’s to a loving family, laughter, and sweet treats during this Christmas season! Merry Christmas! Here are my favorite Christmas songs and Winter Bucket List.

Monday, December 7, 2015

December Playlist


Here are the songs I'm rocking on my ipod these days. Just noticed that three of the songs are called "sorry" and yes I'm embarrassed to be listening to Justin Bieber. lol Check out my other music posts here.

The Weeknd - I Can't Feel My Face
Jason Derulo -  Want to Want Me
Drake - Hotline Bling
Rick Ross (feat Chris Brown) - Sorry 
Justin Bieber - Sorry
Adele - Sorry
Demi Lovato - Confident
Janelle Monae - Yoga
Madonna (feat Nicki Minaj) - Bitch I'm Madonna
Gyptian - All On Me


Monday, November 30, 2015

5 Highlights From My Trip to San Francisco!


I just got back from a fun weekend adventure in San Francisco! I'm no stranger to the city though, this was my third trip there. The last time I went it was rainy and foggy so I couldn't see the Golden Gate Bridge. This time the sun was shining and skies blue! The weather was perfect during the day, but you need to wear layers because it gets chilly at night.

I walked nonstop in San Francisco!  I had so much fun running all over this beautiful city! On Sunday I tracked that I walked 8 miles, particularly on crazy steep hills up and down. San Francisco blocks are twice the length as DC blocks so what looked close on my map was always much farther away.

1. Golden Gate Bridge & Coastal hike

I took the bus to the Sutro Bath ruins then walked 4 miles along the coastline on a trail surrounded by gorgeous willow and cypress trees. I hiked along the water with the best views of the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. Just a few other people were on the trail as it was super windy, but I was thankful for them as the emergency call box I passed was out of order. Next I made my way down to Baker Beach. This empty beach was my favorite spot for pictures.


The sand ladder stairway to leave the beach was a killer! It’s 200 timber logs placed in the sand for a 120 foot climb. Halfway through when I had to take a break and I thought I better make it because a helicopter rescue here is probably out of the question! lol


2. Marveled at the architecture and Street Art

San Francisco is an architectural dream. Every house is different, colorful and so pretty! Most townhouses have garages instead of a garden out front. But I did see some pretty potted cacti gardens. I took a Saturday afternoon stroll in the Mission and Castro districts. I relaxed in Dolores Park for great views of the city. Lots of people were having picnics and listening to music. I passed through the Castro neighborhood which has tons of bars and a fun rainbow crosswalk. I went to the Seward Street Slides which was super fun slides for adults! Then I walked through the Balmy Street Murals which is an alley full of political murals.






3. Vegetarian Dining

San Francisco is a foodie's dream because it's home to some of the best vegetarian restaurants!  I went to Slanted Door for Vietnamese food and Humphry Slocombe for exotic ice cream flavors. I met up with a friend for vegan sushi at Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar.
Had vegan Mexican food at Gracias Madre. When I walked in I could smell the freshly made corn tortillas and had a very hard time deciding what to get off the menu because everything sounded fantastic. I settled on the Tamale filled with butternut squash topped with mole and cashew cream.
My top place to eat in San Francisco is at Greens restaurant where I had an amazing lunch with a gorgeous view of the marina. I had a butternut squash, sage, walnut pizza on a cornmeal crust.


4. Nightlife

I grabbed a drink at the historic Vesuvio bar and admired the street art in the Jack Kerouac Alley next to it. Jack Kerouac wrote the poem 'San Francisco Scene' and among many other things and is famous for coining the term Beat Generation to describe a group of writers in the 1950's. There I ran into a guy in a chicken suit and asked what the occasion was. lol He said it was his birthday so he wore the chicken suit and gave his friends a small block radius in the city and told them to come find what bar he was at with a little money wager. They all took the day off to work to do this and apparently it's a popular thing to do in SF - see Chicken Chase Drinking Game.


5. Landmarks
 
Palace of Fine Arts
Coit Tower

Wharf

Union Square
San Francisco is such an eclectic city and has so much to offer. The street and homes were so beautiful!  I just had an amazing time! I think if I had to move to another city SF would be it! I just need an app to tell me how to avoid the hills. You can read my other California posts here:

Beach Bliss in Santa Monica

Summer Chillin in Los Angeles

Vegetarian in LA



Saturday, November 28, 2015

New Vegetarian Cookbooks for 2015

Goodreads was doing their annual Choice Awards for best books of 2015. In the final round of the category cookbooks the nominees included these 3 books which I'd never heard of so I checked them out of the library. All the books have a ton of color photographs which is really important to me. The first two books are vegan and while I'm not looking to become a vegan, I am always looking to reducing the amount of dairy in my meals as cheese in my weakness. I enjoyed these books because they offer clean, plant-based  recipes for preparing new exciting, flavorful meals.


Deliciously Ella : 100+ easy, healthy, and delicious plant-based, gluten-free recipes by Ella Woodward 

Ella is a food blogger who suffered from a rare disease that left her bed ridden and when medicine didn't help she changed her diet. She said, "I made a rule when I first started eating this way that I’d never serve a salad as my main dish to non-heathy eaters, as no matter how delicious and beautiful the salad is it's still salad so it may still play into their stereotype that veggie food is only about salads!" Her cookbook is filled with delicious recipes including a Coconut Thai Curry with Chickpeas, Black and Kidney Bean Chili, Lentil Bolognese, and smoothies.








But I Could Never Go Vegan!: 125 Recipes That Prove You Can Live Without Cheese, It's Not All Rabbit Food, and Your Friends Will Still Come Over for Dinner by Kristy Turner

Kristy, another food blogger, was a former "die-hard cheese nerd" turned vegan. I love how she says,"No one cares about your protein intake until you become vegan." Her book includes delicious recipes such as Lentil-Mushroom meatloaf, Tempeh bacon, Mediterranean tofu scramble, Samosa cakes, Corn fritters, Lentil Curry, Cauliflower bisque, dairy free gnocchi alla vodka, and Pea Guacamole.








The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen 

This book is full of rich dishes and is the bible of all cookbooks at 400+ pages. You'll understand why being a vegetarian does not automatically mean you will be skinny. The recipes are American classics and from all around the world. It shows pictures of how to cut different vegetables.There's tons of delicious soup recipes and 5 different chili recipes! It has 4 different veggie burger recipes. There's a chapter on tofu, which you won't see much of in the other chapters. There's another chapter on salads and one on just eggs. I think this book would really appeal to meat eaters wanting to add more meatless dishes to their menu.









Friday, November 27, 2015

Vegan Meal Delivery Kit Services

I'm sure you've heard of Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated, of which I've tried them all. But I always thought the vegetarian options were limited so I was thrilled to learn of some vegan meal delivery services! As someone who enjoys cooking gourmet meals from scratch already, I've found these services a bit pricey. But I think it's a great way to find new recipes to try or to order when you have company visiting so everything is all set and ready to go. Some of these are subscription based services where you sign up to be billed every week for delivery. I'd prefer to check the menu each week then decide if I want it or not. Here's my experience with each company.

Purple Carrot This was my favorite until they decided to go to the weekly delivery pricing system.
They deliver vegan, plant-based meals with no heavily processed ingredients. The recipes are submitted by author and chef Mark Bittman and reviewed by nutritionists. Meals change weekly, and each week there are four dinner options from which you pick and also get a dessert. You are sent via FedEx pre-measured food that you just chop and cook. I enjoyed the meals but found the desserts to be a bit weird and just missing the mark.The cost is $68 for 3 meals a week each serving 2 people.


Lighter
Lighter is a bit different in that they employ someone local to you to go to Whole Foods and bring you grocery bags full of the non-portioned ingredients. They ask you during the check out which staples you already have at home, and since I already have a full pantry I practically had almost every ingredient! I thought if I'm paying them for food, why un-check items to help them save money because they're not deducting it from my payment? So I ended up with a bottle of olive oil which all other meal delivery services I've used already assumed you have.  They ask your cooking skill, preferred cooking time, and if you have a blender. I picked advanced and 45 min cooking time, yet I thought the recipes were quite basic. You can also choose how many breakfasts, lunches or dinners you want to receive in your package, but don't get to pick your recipes. For snacks I got a large bag of popcorn and nuts, but I'd rather not get snacks. You sign up for an on-going weekly subscription program and the weekly cost is $65.

Vegan Cuts
Is a monthly subscription to a vegan snack box for $20. You can read my review here. I loved discovering new products that I had just never noticed at Whole Foods before. The problem was I usually ate the whole box the day it arrived! lol

ScratchDC
While not a vegan service, it is a DC based daily meal delivery service. So unlike the others where you are picking your meals 2 weeks in advance, here you pick the day of if you want their meal of the day which sometimes are vegetarian or have a vegetarian option. Cost is $31.50 plus tax and makes 3 servings.

Sakara
I personally haven't tried this because of the price point but I'm dying to do so. For $99 per day you get 3 vegan and or raw meals. For $125 it will also include their special waters. I don't know but I think $30+ seems pretty pricey for a salad.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Bookworm Wishlist

Here's my Christmas book wishlist! These are all books that came out this year that aren't at the library. This list hits all my favorite reading topics. First off are two books by models Christie Brinkley and Molly Sims on their beauty secrets. A memoir from Leah Remini  about her experience with Scientology which is currently the #1 book on the NY Times best seller list. A book about being a vegan from Russell Simmons. And a comedic memoir by Brittany Gibbons who went on TV in her bathing suit (in Times Square) wearing a size 18.

Bookworm Wishlist


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari


Aziz is a comedian and actor. You might have seen him on the TV show "Parks and Recreation", hosting the 2010 MTV awards, he's been in a few movies, filmed his own comedy special this year "Live at Madison Square Garden" and has his own series on netflix called "Master of None". He released his book this summer on the comedic pitfalls of dating in the modern world. He worked with multiple sociologists and referenced statistics to show he thoroughly researched the topic of dating. He starts with the history of dating in this country and how its evolved. And how romance has changed due to technology, ie texting and tinder. He also travels around the world to France, Argentina and Japan to compare their dating to ours. It's truly a  legit sociological study of romance in the modern age. It's the only book of it's kind out there on the challenge of looking for love in the digital age.

Many of his observations I've noticed myself such as the following trends with the advent of the smartphone. He complains about people being too busy to write you back but have time to post photos on facebook and how rude that is. (yep I have a friend like that!) "What I see out in bars today, which is usually a bunch of people staring at their phones trying to find someone or something more exciting than where they are."  "If I text someone, and they wait ten minutes to text me back, I wait twenty. We both know the other is glued to their phone. Everyone is. So if you're gonna play the game, that's fine, but I'll play it better, I'm very competitive."  "Put a group of young people in a room and they will be buried on their phones, not talking to anyone around them. You don't need to make small talk with strangers when you can stare at your phone." "As a medium, it's safe to say, texting facilitates flakiness and rudeness and many other personality traits that would not be expressed in a phone call such as cancelling plans."

On the topic of dating his statistics say that "for the first time in history, the typical American now spends more years single than married." "Living alone has skyrocketed almost everywhere and in many major cities from Paris to Tokyo to DC to Berlin, nearly half of all households have just one resident."
"Having a husband and kids isn't a prerequisite to having a well-rounded fulfilling adult life anymore." We are willing to look very far, for a very longtime, to find a soul mate.

On the topic of online dating he statistics say that "between 2005 and 2012 more than one third of couples who got married in the United States met through an online dating site." One person got approx 350 matches in 5 months, that's 70 people a month, so statistically you'll meet more people online than in person. So you can say that to the uninformed person asking why are you are online. Because "today, if you own a smartphone, you're carrying a 24-7 singles bar in your pocket." "Online dating works best as a forum where you can meet people whom you'd never otherwise be able to meet. It's the ultimate way to expand the search beyond the neighborhood" "As of Oct 2014, Tinder has more than fifty million users. New York and Los Angeles were using Tinder as the go-to dating app. People were using it to meet people for relationships."


Aziz says that "online dating is like a second job that requires knowledge and skills that very few of us have." He goes into great dept into how to do it right. He suggest resisting the temptation to start long online exchanges before a first date. "There's only one way to determine whether you have a future with a person and that is meeting them face to face. Nothing else can give you a sense of what a person is actually like, nor whether you two will spark." So he advises online daters to keep their messaging to a minimum and to meet the person in real life as quickly as possible. "If you spend your nights in endless exchanges with strangers, after a certain point, if you're still trading endless back and forth messages online you're just wasting time"

Aziz spend hours talking to women and seeing the kind of "first texts" they get from men online and he described it 'infuriating'. "These were intelligent, attractive, amazing women and they all deserved better...Most of the texts women receive are, sadly, utterly lacking in either thought or personality. What to know what's filling up the phones of nearly every single women. It's this: "hey" and while that may seem harmless, seeing it from the other side is eye-opening. When your phone is filled with that stuff, generic messages come off as super dull and lazy. Would you go to up to a girl in a bar and say "hey" ten times in a  row?"


He gives tips for men meeting women online:

  1. Don't exchange endless meaningless texts, pick up the phone and call a girl, it'll show you have confidence in yourself and you won't be wasting her time.
  2. Don't ask a girl to "hang out" make it clear it's a date.
  3. Pick something fun and exciting for a first different, not the usual bar where you just exchange resumes.
  4. Invest in a person, meaning go on a few dates with someone before you decide they are not for you because you can't appreciate all of someone's qualities from a first date.


"One firm takeaway from all our interviews with women is that most dudes out there are straight-up bozos."



Sunday, November 8, 2015

3 More Memoirs I Like

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

I loved Mindy's first book so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one! She shares her beauty secrets and how she's not a hugger and says that in NYC that is perfectly acceptable way to be there. She talks about how friendships change after weddings and that best friends become just friends saying "we will never again have each others undivided attention. That version of our friendship is over." She wonders if she will never have a husband and all her female acquaintances will. She talks about her figure, "I physically resemble most women in this country, 5'4 and a size 10, yet somehow when I'm on the screen it's shocking to people." She goes on to say, "I'm not big like them, I can buy my clothes at regular stores! I can still fit into one economy seat on a plane." Obama's daughters read her book so she was invited to White House events. She said, "I was somehow expecting that I would be escorted directly to the President, who would appoint me diplomat to some cool little country like French Zaire (I'm assuming that's a place)." One part of the book is a fictional account of her adventures if she became a Latin teacher in NYC where she throws a party where the dress code is "Upscale Autumn." lol When you finish her book you wished was a friend of yours. Favorite quote from the book:


"I have never once refrained from eating a Gril Scout Tagalong cookie if someone brings in a box to work. The very idea of not taking one (OK, nine) seems crazy to me." 


Wildflower - Drew Barrymore

I read this short book in three days, then listened to the last few chapters on my phone as Drew was the narrator. It is not a memoir per se but a collection of personal stories of her life that she calls love letters to the people she loves. She's lived an interesting life to say the least. She tells stories about her friends, dogs, husband and daughters, and gives the reader a peek into her life throughout the years. It isn't in chronological order and she does gloss over the troubled times so don't expect some tell all book. You can find that in the memoir she wrote when she was 14.

A little backstory, she was raised by a single mom in West Hollywood leading an unconventional life. Starting off as a child address Drew was smoking and drinking by the time she was 11 and on drugs by 13. After a suicide attempt at 14 her mother dropped her off at a psych facility for 18 months. Upon her release she petitioned the court for her emancipation and moved into her own apt.

Then she went through another wild period so in the book she talks about how since the birth of her children she grown much more conservative. Because of her lonely childhood, Drew says she treasures her friendships more than ever. She doesn't speak to her mother now, but financially supports her. She writes about how her friends like Cameron Diaz and Steven Spielberg have loved and encouraged her along the way. Drew has her own movie production company, which produced the movie Charlie's Angels. Did you know she's worked on 49 movies! The book made me smile and laugh a lot and her determined optimism and gratefulness shines through this collection of stories. She's on the cover of the November issue of InStyle magazine. At the age of 37 she married her 3rd husband Will Kopelman, son of former Chanel CEO with whom she has 2 daughters. She's since started her own beauty line called Flower Beauty. Over the past 10 years she's actively worked in supporting educational charities in Kenya. Favorite quote from the book:

"It's ironic that we rush through being "single" as if it's some disease or malady to get rid of or overcome. The truth is, most likely, one day you will meet someone and it will be gone. And once it's gone, it's really gone! Why does no one tell us how important it is to enjoy being single and being by yourself? That time is defining and amazing and nothing to "sure". It is being alone that will actually set you up the best for being with someone else."

Solo: A Memoir of Hope by Hope Solo 
Hope Solo is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a World Cup gold medalist. She has been goalkeeping for the United States Women's National Soccer team since 2000. And she is regarded as one of the top female goalkeepers in the world. She says, "a goal keeper cannot win a game. A goalkeeper saves it." And that "goalkeeping isn't glamorous, it's touch and stressful and thankless."

Her life is defined by drama and chaos and she doesn't believe in happy endings. Her mother became pregnant with her during a conjugal visit while her father was in prison. She grew up a latchkey to an alcoholic mother and a tomboy from a broken home. Her father was philanderer and con man, was convicted of embezzlement and later ended up homeless through most of Hope's life. Hope book is full of painful memories and personal problems.

She's independent, outspoken and honest, self described as not the outgoing and bubbly type like the rest of her teammates. She was famously benched in the semifinals of the 2007 World Cup after criticizing to the press her coach's decision to bench her causing the team to lose. Her punishment was to carry the team equipment at practice. And she wasn't allowed to suit up or be on the field for the national anthem, eat with the team, sign autographs, plus her teammates refused to ride the elevator with her. The Mean Girls of the team even sat her down and went around the room to say why they didn't like her because they felt there was no justification to put down a teammate. Yet if it happened on a men's team it would have been quite a different situation. Her coach even suggested she give back her tour money and bronze medal. However contractually it was her right to be on the tour even thought the team didn't want her there. So she put herself through hell to be there. Fans yelled FREE HOPE SOLO to support her during the team's petty backlash against her. 


I learned some interesting things about women's soccer. When she first started playing for the Women's United Soccer Association in 2001 crowds were dismal, television ratings were abysmal, and her salary was $30K. Now she plays for the Seattle Reign and her salary is somewhere between $22K and $65K. But her net worth is estimated at $2.5 Million from endorsement deals with Seiko, Simple Skincare, Nike, BlackBerry, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, and Gatorade which she may have lost due to recent personal drama. In 2012 her boyfriend was arrested on investigation of assault following an altercation that left Hope injured. The following day, he was released after a judge determined there was not enough evidence to hold him. They got married the next day. In 2014 she was arrested for assault on her half-sister and nephew. Charges were dismissed due to lack of corporation from both alleged victims. Hope claimed she was defending herself from an attack by her nephew, who is 6'9" tall. 

  Hope was a contestant on my favorite show Dancing with the Stars in 2011. She revealed that it wasn't really a competition but an "orchestrated reality show as there was a secret memo that said who was going home each week". When her book was finished she was told there was a possibility that she would be excluded from the Olympic team because of the book so she had to postpone the release which she thought was a double standard since plenty of male athletes release books whenever they want. She's also been the victim of death threats mailed to her house and her iphone pictures were hacked.


This book was a fascinating read for me, as someone who doesn't even watch soccer. I learned about the game, the industry, how while trying to be the fittest player on the team she didn't drink for 5 months even on her days off. I could not put this book down, it was so good. 

Check out my other book posts: 3-fascinating-memoirs and 3-must-read-memoirs.

   


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