Tag Archives: life

Becoming a Book Worm (again)

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It has been TWO weeks since my last blog post, which has been way to long, so my apologies for that! Let me give you a quick update on what I’ve been doing in that time and then we’ll get to the real reason for this post.

CAUTION: This post is wordy, so get ready for a long read.

So after being home for 5 days at Easter, I turned right back around 3 days later and spent the weekend of the 13th at home. The whole point of me wanting to go back to Texas that weekend was to run the Blue Bell Fun Run on Saturday morning! I must admit that waking up at 5:30am after getting in Texas at 10pm the night before was quite hard to do, but it was well worth it.  If you’re from Texas, or even the South for that matter, then you know what Blue Bell Ice Cream is and even calling it amazing, is an extreme understatement! Blue Bell is made in Brenham, Texas, which is about 1 1/2 hours from Houston, so it’s pretty accessible. My friend, Jessica, did the race with me this year.

Last year was the first year I did the Blue Bell Fun Run and I’m determined to do it every year now because at the end of the race, you get all-you-can-eat ice cream bars and sandwiches. As an ice cream fanatic, those words are sweet music to my ears! Needless to say I wasn’t going to miss this run even if I live in NY now! Oh and if you read my Easter post, then you know when I was home that I found out I had bronchitis, which I was still recovering from when I ran this race. Like last year, I did the 10K and due to my bronchitis, this was probably one of the worst races I have ever run. I could not stop coughing which then made it hard to catch my breath. Brenham is so hilly, so if you can’t catch you’re breath, it’s going to be a rough race. It was definitely my slowest race time, which was a bit frustrating, but considering I was sick and towards the end walked quite a bit of it, then I guess I can’t be too upset with a 1 hour and 9 minute run! All I know is next year, I’ll have to get back on track with a much more ‘normal’ race time. Even though the race has unlimited ice cream at the end, I don’t want to eat my weight in ice cream, so I limit myself to 2 things. This year I had a Strawberry Fruit bar and a Great Divide bar (it’s made with vanilla and chocolate ice cream covered with both white and milk chocolate) . Both were great and hit the spot!

Me and Jessica with our Blue Bell!  🙂

On Sunday before coming back to New York, I went to church, then brunch with a few friends and finished off my afternoon by going to the end of the picnic for the bible study class both my parents and I attend at church. The class we go to is called Biblical Literacy and it is taught by Mark Lanier. If you’re interested in the historical aspect of the Bible, then definitely check this class out. It’s really quite fascinating and Mark is an excellent teacher. At the picnic, I was able to catch up with at lot of people I had not seen for a few months!

Mark and I 

One of the people I got to see was my friend, Michelle. She went with my last summer to Israel where we both volunteered on an archaeological dig in the Elah Valley. Now that’s an experience I’ll never forget. If you’re most people, then when you think of an archaeological dig, you’ll think of using little brushes and tiny picks to wipe away the dirt and discover history. Well, as I soon discovered, that was not the case at all! It’s more like volunteering for back-breaking manual labor…think pick axes being thrown into the solid, packed dirt, carrying 100’s of buckets of dirt/rocks, and shoveling for hours on end. After days of that, then you might get a day of using the little tools, if you’re lucky!  Regardless, it was a great experience and something I actually want to do again.

Michelle and I at Khibet Qeiyafa with some pottery!

Me, my mom and Michelle  (10 months and no tan later) at the picnic.

Also I got to spend two nights snuggling with my Sophie…my French Bulldog who is living with my parents in Texas. Although I probably shouldn’t I’m contemplating bringing her to NY for a month or two during the fall when the weather is nice. I miss her so much so I’m always happy to spend time with her and a trip home isn’t complete without at least a few pictures of my baby!

Look at that cutie sleeping!

In the past week, I have just been spending a lot of time working (which I still love my new job) and attempting to get back into a normal running routine. The latter has been difficult considering it has rained the last few days, but I’m hoping that it will clear up this week and I can get at least 3 or 4 runs in at Central Park! Ok, enough catching up, time to get down to business and the whole point of this blog.

Becoming a Book Worm (again)

In the last 6 weeks or so I’ve gotten on quite a reading kick. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I’ve never been much of a daily reader. Throughout college and in the last few years since graduating, I’ve gone through spurts where I read non-stop for a few months, followed by a much longer hiatus of no reading. Even during those times, I buy books with the intent of reading them, but they just collect dust in the corner of my room or on my nightstand. For example, I bought the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West almost 2 years ago because I have wanted to read it since it first came out, but even as of today, it has yet to be opened and is still in a Barnes and Noble bag. Ridiculous, I know.

This newfound desire to read was indeed started by The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I like so many others out there I wanted to read the books before watching the movie because that is all everyone was talking about. I must admit though, that if it had not been for the making of the movie and all the hype surrounding it, then I would have never read the series. When THG first came out, I was still teaching high school and all my students were reading the book, so I thought it was a kids book. As a YA book, it essentially is a kids book, and I had no desire to read the same book that my sophomore students were reading.

Anyway, I finished The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay in a week because I was literally addicted to them. For 7 days all I did was breathe, eat and sleep The Hunger Games. I would stay up until 1:30am reading and then would dream about the books once asleep. It was crazy.  Since I don’t want to spoil the books for anyone who hasn’t read them, let me just say that there were a few things I was unhappy with in the series – cue Mockingjay. That book drove me insane with so many unanswered questions and what I thought were a few unnecessary deaths. For me it was a toss-up between The Hunger Games and Catching Fire holding the coveted spot of being my favorite book in the series. I’m a romantic at heart, so I loved the Katniss/Peeta romance in book one, but there were so many twists and turns during book two that it was hard not to love it as well. If you haven’t read the series, then I strongly suggest you do; you won’t be sorry that you did!

A few days after ending the series, I kicked my current book-worm status into high gear by buying one book after another. Since THG, below is a list of what I’ve read.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

    My first impression upon receiving the book was ‘Wow, this is a much thicker book than I thought it would be!’ At over 500 pages and much smaller print than THG series, I knew this one was going to take longer than a few days to read and it did. After two weeks of reading, I finally finished the book and I absolutely loved it. I had seen the movie when it came out last summer so I already knew the story line. Throughout reading the book, I was actually surprised at how accurate the movie portrayed the book, as this is typically not the case. Movies always change the ending or some key parts of the book (i.e. My Sister’s Keeper or The Hunger Games for that matter). I thought Kathryn Stockett did a fantastic job writing this. The book was written from the point of view of three characters: Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny, all three of which were the protagonists of the book. Between Skeeter’s homely looks, over-critical mother and the way she became an outcast with her friends, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. And what was there not to love about Minny’s boisterous, back-talking character or her “Terrible Awful.” Or Aibileen with her courage to talk to Skeeter or her sweet words to Mae Mobley: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” You wanted all of them to win and to triumph over every obstacle they faced. Which brings us then to Hilly Holbrook, your antagonist, who controlled the women in the Junior League and was determined to get the Home Health Sanitation Initiative passed. Her character was almost comical due to how ridiculous her demands were and the way everyone was scared of her. Overall, I highly recommend this book. It was comical yet from a historical aspect it painted a good picture of the South during the Civil Rights movement.

Life without Limits by Nick Vujicic

    I first heard Nick speak the year after I graduated college at Second Baptist Church in Houston. I went to that Sunday morning service not knowing that he was our guest speaker and was astounded by his speaking abilities and testimony. Nick was born with a condition known as Phocamelia where you are born with malformed or missing limbs. He was missing both arms and both legs at birth, which is almost impossible to imagine as this is not that common. Nick, who is in his late 20s, is a public speaker who travels around the world inspiring others. This book is about his life. For many years Nick questioned why God allowed him to be born this way and he finally discovered his purpose: to inspire others and help them find their own purpose in life. You cannot read this book and not be humbled and learn something from Nick. Although Nick went through some rough patches early on, he has handled his condition far better than most people in his shoes would. There were a few quotes in his book that really resonated with me. “Life without meaning has no hope. Life without hope has no faith. If you find a way to contribute, you will find your meaning, and hope and faith will naturally follow and accompany you into your future.”  I also really like this one. “Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark your life seems to be, raise your sights and see the possibilities. Always see them, for they are always there.” And to think that these words are coming from someone born without any limbs…someone who still sees the possibilities and doesn’t let the odds that are against him determine his life. If you’re looking for something inspiring, then this is a must read.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

    If this isn’t the quintessential coming of age book for women, then I don’t know what is. I mean, who hasn’t read Little Women and felt that they have a little bit of each of the March girls in them? I bought this copy while home in Texas this past fall, but shortly after purchasing it I became really busy with work and was never able to finish reading the book. I just rediscovered this copy and am attempting to finally finish it. I’ve got about 1/3 of the book left and am hoping to finish it within the next week. It has become my new train book…it’s perfect for reading on my way to and from work. I can’t read this book without thinking of the 1994 movie with Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder. It is definitely one of my favorites! Little Women is set during the Civil War and tells the story of the four March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Their father is off fighting in the war and the book chronicles their lives after they have lost their wealth. Although the girls fight with each other quite often, they prove that love and family inevitably conquers all.  If you haven’t read this book, then you should pick it up because it’s a classic and very well written. Also, the story is supposed to be loosely based off of the life Louisa May Alcott and her three sisters.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

    Apart from finishing up Little Women, I am starting to read Water for Elephants. Ever since seeing this book a few years ago in Target I have wanted to read it. I must admit that until the movie came out though that I had no idea what this book was even about, but there was something about the cover that intrigued me. Just recently I broke down and bought it from Barnes and Noble.  I’ve read mixed reviews about this book, so I’m not really sure what to think about it, but regardless I’m still going to read it! Also, I saw this movie with my mom when it was in the theaters and overall I really enjoyed it, minus the scenes where Rosie the elephant gets brutally beaten…that was too sad and I couldn’t watch it without crying. I’ll have to give y’all an update after I read the book and let you know what I think, but I’m hoping I enjoy it. It will also be interesting to see how different the book is from the movie.

I’ve decided that after finishing up these last few books that I am going to make myself a summer reading list. I probably haven’t had a summer reading list since middle school, but there are just so many books that I want to read that this will be the easiest way for me to accomplish that. On that note, I’ve started making a preliminary list, but I’m for suggestions. So, if there is a book that you think I should add to my list, then let me know!

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The Pinterest Project

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I, like so many other women (and even men) am obsessed with Pinterest. When I’m bored at work, browsing Pinterest is my go-to. It’s a little sad, but I must admit that I am addicted. As of today, I have over 900 pins and 27 boards and I have only recreated maybe 3 of those pins. There are just so many recipes and DIY projects that I want to make and there just isn’t enough time in each day!

Anyway, I have decided to commit to a project…a Pinterest project to be exact. For the next 30 days, I am going to make at least 1 thing I have pinned on Pinterest a day and blog about it. This can be anything from making a craft, to preparing a recipe, to styling a new hairdo! My plan is to commit to 30 days of making Pinterest projects, but if I enjoy doing this then, I might continue it. I figure it will give me something to think about during work. Now when I’m bored I can browse my pins and find out what my next masterpiece will be!

This project officially begins March 1st, so follow along!

On a completely different note, check this out. This is the best nail polish I have ever found! I painted my nails on Sunday and look how well they are still holding up. These nails have been through 3 showers, 2 loads of dishes being washed by hand, and tons of hand washes. No chips and still good as new. I applied two coats of the polish, with NO base coat and NO top coat. Unbelievable, right?

Obviously the brand (Chanel) is a bit pricey, but it’s totally worth it. This is Black Pearl and I’m in love…

How to stay young

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A few days ago, my mom sent me a link to a daily devotional called ‘Girlfriends in God.’ After reading one of the past devotionals, I decided to subscribe to it and I loved what todays said. It was about living each day abundantly and to our fullest potential. In other words, cherish your friends and family and stop putting things off! The best part of the devotional was a list of 18 things that you should do to help stay young. Some of them are no-brainers and some of them are a little tricky to do on a regular basis, but here goes.

How to Stay Young

1. Throw out non-essential numbers such as your age, weight and height.

2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down. If you really need a grouch, there are probably family members to fill that need.

3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Just never let the brain idle.

4. Enjoy the simple things. When the children are young, that is all you can afford. When they are in college that is all you can afford. When they are grown, and you are on retirement, that is all you can afford.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath. Laugh so much that you can be tracked in the store by your distinctive laughter.

6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person that is with us our entire life is ourselves.

7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it is family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies or whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health. If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don’t take guilt trips. Go to the mall, the next county, a foreign country – but not guilt.

10. Tell the people you love how much you love them every chance you get. Never assume they know.

11. Don’t worry about things you cannot change or do anything about. Accept them and move on.

12. Read more and dust less.

13. Spend more time with your family and friends and less time working.

14. Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, not to endure. Recognize these moments now and cherish them.

15. Do not “save” anything. Use your good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, or the next blossom of flowers you see.

16. Wear your best outfit to the market.

17. Don’t save your good perfume for only special occasions. Use it even if you are going shopping or just to the bank.

18. “Someday” and “one of these days” should vanish from your vocabulary. If it is worth seeing or hearing or doing, go and see or hear or do it now.

What are you? Are you living each day to the fullest?

My new goal is to follow this list – especially numbers 5, 7, 11 and 13. Number 13 should be at the top of everyone’s list! Even at 26, there are things I do on this list on a regular basis that I shouldn’t do. So, here’s to staying forever young.

Thats the way we get by

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As of late, my job has becoming extremely boring and tedious. I don’t have enough work to do during the day, so I resort to spending my day on Pinterest, writing emails to my family and friends and planning vacations I would like to take that I currently cannot afford, which is no fun. These are some things I also look at to pass the time.

The first two pictures are post-it notes that I have taped to my desk.


My mom sent this verse to me back in October when one of my co-workers was belittling me and being rude. I taped it to my desk as a constant reminder that what that person said or did honestly did not matter because God is on my side.  I need to read this verse on a daily basis as I feel like God is testing me daily at this job. I’m having to relearn to be patient and humble. I should have James 1:19 taped to my desk as well –  “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”  – but I don’t. Luckily I know how to stay relatively calm and I’m good at being slow to speak. My mom sending me this verse proves that mom always knows best.

This verse was the main verse for one of my daily devotionals from a few weeks ago. After reading it, I immediately taped it to my desk.  This verse is one of a few verses recited after the Shema which Jews recite every morning and evening. As the devotional explained, the Shema is a confession of faith and acts as a pledge of allegiance for Judaism. I think this verse should not only be a Jewish pledge of allegiance, but a Christian one as well as we need to reaffirm our love and devotion to God.

Every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to have a gorgeous view when I look out my window, like the sunset pictured above. Our office has an ‘open concept’ where the desks are lined up in rows and you have no quiet space or really even a space of your own, besides your desk. Sometimes when it’s nice outside, I enjoy getting lost looking out the window at Central Park. I can do that for hours. When the weather is really nice, I can see tiny people playing in the park and it makes me long to be outside. Being so close to Central Park is such a tease.

Considering I was super excited about having an office job after 3 years of teaching, I must admit that I find being in an office extremely boring. How can people enjoy sitting at a desk for hours on end doing nothing?? I guess I’d rather be on my feet all day then sit at a desk like a lump on a log. Oh the things we learn…

My year of anti-resolutions

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10 days into the new year and I’m surrounded by people attempting to keep their new year’s resolutions and live a ‘healthier’ lifestyle. Everywhere you look, their are ads for diets, gyms and quick fixes to help you attain that ideal physique.

Take my office for example. I work at a small firm where almost everyone who works there is male. Since January 3rd, all except a couple of men in the office have been on some sort of diet, with the most popular being a liquid diet. The most interesting liquid dieting being the one where you drink 8 different types of juices a day and those drinks are supposed to give you all the nutrients you need for the day. That’s it – just juice, no solids. You’re drinking everything from fruit and veggie blends to the all popular coconut water, which tastes awful and is not more hydrating than water. Now, I’m not a scientist, but when you have men who are used to eating large, filling meals of burgers and fries or chicken and rice plates from the Halal carts (aka street meat) and they switch to a liquid diet, you’re going to have a few unhappy campers as their bodies adjust. Last week you should have seen this place – you would have thought I worked in an office full of women – moody, temperamental and on edge men filled their desks. This behavior was coming from guys who sit around and talk about who can do the most push-ups, with some guys claiming they can do 500 (ha!) to challenging each other in the boxing ring when they have a disagreement and feel then need to show how masculine they are. Those arguements typically go something like this:

Guy #1: “Let’s take this to the ring. Put on some gloves and we’ll see how many rounds you can last.”

Guy #2: “You couldn’t last one round with me!”

Guy #1: “I’d knock you out first. I used to box in high school.”

Guy #2: “You’d last like 1 minute against me. I bet you can’t even handle the speed bag.”

Guy #1: “I use that at the gym.”

You get the picture. After being around this neurotic and narcissistic behavior for too long and in an attempt to not disappoint myself this year, I am not making any new year’s resolutions. Let’s face it, a week into January I was still noshing on some Christmas candy, so if I had vowed to cut out sugar from my diet I would have already epically failed. Although I am cutting back on caffeine and alcohol consumption, I am doing so not as a new year’s resolution, but to help me with my running. Instead of unrealistic resolutions, I have decided to make this year my ‘year of dabbling’ by learning new things I’ve always thought were interesting or doing things I love and have not made time for in the recent years. Some of these things include:

  • speaking french
  • painting
  • hot yoga/yoga in general
  • running races [as it’s been an entire year since my last one]
  • zumba
  • photography [esp. black and white]
  • reading
  • cooking [afterall, I need to try all those recipes I’ve pinned on pinterest]
  • hiking

The difference between what I am doing and what the 99.99% do, is that I am not  setting a goal to complete [insert unrealistic resolution here]. Instead, I’ll do as little or as much of everything as I want. So, if I only learn 10 words in French, well guess what, that’s 10 words I didn’t know before, so kudos to me. I refuse to be dissapointed by things I don’t accomplish this year. I’ll try hard and do what I want/can.

Cheers to my anti-resolutions.

New Year, New Attitude, New Blog

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After much deliberation, I have decided to start a new blog to chronicle my life, thoughts and feelings. Many have asked me why I stopped blogging after my summer in Israel and the answer is simple: that blog was specifically created for that trip. Hopefully this blog will satisfy the needs of those curious about the life of Julie Brooke. Also, this should offer as much excitement and randomness as its predecessor and no, this isn’t a DIY blog even though I am addicted to pinterest. As much as I wish this could be, the reality is I don’t have enough time to make projects and cook non-stop and then blog about it. But trust me, if I  eat or make something amazing, you’ll know!

As far as the new attitude goes, I’m convinced that since moving to New York almost 6 months ago, that I have become somewhat of a pessimist. It must go along with the territory. A vast majority of people up here are debbie-downers and complainers…hardcore complainers. Everything is a complaint…it’s too hot, too cold, there’s too many people on the subway, too many tourists in the streets, etc…you get the picture!  So, with the new year, I am determined to be that neverending optimist again! Time flies too quickly to always be complaining.

So, here’s my toast for 2012: May this year challenge me mentally and physically, teach me humility, the true meaning of grace and help me grow spiritually, so Happy New Year! Bring it on 2012.