Tag Archives: travel

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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Weekend in D.C.

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Sorry to leave y’all high and dry for the last few days, but between starting my new job and going to D.C. for the weekend I have been a busy, busy bee! Like I told y’all on Wednesday, I LOVE my job. It is truly amazing and I am really lucky to have found it, but I must tell you that waking up earlier is not that enjoyable. I’m sure in a week or two I’ll be used to waking up early again!

This past weekend I went to D.C. since the Cherry Blossoms are in season (plus D.C. is one of my favorite cities)! The Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. goes from March 20th- April 27th and this year was the Bicentennial Celebration. Just a little history lesson (in case you don’t know), but Japan gave the U.S. Cherry Blossom trees back in 2012 and each year they bloom symbolizing the friendship between our two countries.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see a lot of Cherry Blossoms as the peak bloom date this year was the weekend before I showed up! The peak bloom date changes every year and it didn’t help that last week the Northeast had a lot of cold and rainy weather. It was a bummer because I was really anticipating seeing Cherry Blossoms surround the Tidal Basin. The only ones I got to see up close were by the Capital and the Supreme Court. I think Cherry Blossoms are really magnificent when they are in full bloom. I guess next year I’ll have to plan my Cherry Blossom trip better so I know the exact peak bloom weekend. The only awesome thing about being here this weekend though was that they had a Kite Festival going on around the Washington Monument and some of the kites were pretty awesome!

Apart from seeing a few Cherry Blossoms, I got to brush up on my history and go to all of the museums and sites that I love to see. D.C. really is one of my favorite cities because there is so much history there. Yes, my nerdy ex-history teacher side is coming out, but I just can’t help it! I’ve been to D.C. quite a few times and every time I come back I still go to the Smithsonian museums, War Memorials, National Archives, etc. It’s ridiculous the amount of times I’ve seen the exact same exhibits! My favorite place to visit by far though is the Library of Congress. The architecture and murals are AMAZING. If I lived in D.C. I’d probably go there every week just to hang out and enjoy the ambiance. When I go back to D.C. I’m constantly shocked at how well the buildings and statues are made considering they are so old. It really makes you appreciate fine handy work, especially when you see intricate sculptures and realized that everything was done by hand.  Since I have been to D.C. so many times, I can literally walk the streets without a map and know exactly where I am going, which I proved again to myself this weekend.

Below are a few of the pictures I took this past weekend.

 

The Capitol and the National Mall

My favorite sculpture in the Sculpture Garden – ‘Thinker on a Rock’

A trip to D.C. is not complete without a chili dog and chili cheese fries from Ben’s Chili Bowl on U-Street!

The Washington Monument and the Kite Festival!

The White House

What’s left of ‘Occupy D.C.’

Top Gunning it at the Air and Space Museum

Enjoying my old-fashioned photo shoot in the American History Museum

Some of the gorgeous tulips that were all around D.C.

The Capit0l

 

Me posing with the Cherry Blossoms outside the Supreme Court

Another picture with the Cherry Blossoms

Gorgeous Cherry Blossoms!

At the Lincoln Memorial

Even though I just got back from D.C., I can’t wait to go back for another visit! It’s been almost 2 years since I did a week-long visit in D.C. and literally got to see everything and I definitely want another trip like that. Since the likelihood of me being there for a week is so small, I’ll just have to stick to a few weekend trips! Next time I go back I’m going to have to revisit Mount Vernon and hopefully I can finally make a trip out to Monticello to see Jefferson’s home.

Until next time DMV…