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My Favorite Books in 2015

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It’s no secret that I love reading pretty much all books, but I especially love a book that I can get lost in. I love fiction, mysteries, fantasies and history. Books that are fast paced, magical, exciting and imaginative. For me, reading is for adventure and escape.

At the start of 2015 I had made a few goals. One of my more personal goals was that I wanted to get lost in one book every week of the year, to read 52 books. Looking back, I realize that this was quite an ambitious goal to set for myself. Although I tend to be a quick and determined reader, it is really no surprise that despite a strong start last January, come February I had fallen off the reading wagon.

Despite my failure, I still did a pretty good job and read more than I have in the last few years. In total, I read 29 books in 2015 – almost one book every two weeks. It definitely isn’t 52 books, but not all that bad if I do say so myself.

For 2016 I decided not to set a reading goal for myself. My hope is that thanks to all the practice I got in the last year, I will be able to continue the habit of reading a book every two weeks going forward. But if I don’t, that is okay too! For now, here are the books that I loved reading the most in 2015:

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The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah

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Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith

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The Universe Versus Alex Woods, Gavin Extence

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The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

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Wild, Cheryl Strayed

 

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Boston Public Market

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For the long Labor Day weekend Chris and I didn’t have too much planned. There was one thing that I really wanted to do: visit the Boston Public Market.

Boston Public Market 7

The market opened earlier this summer and is a year-round, indoor market featuring fresh and local food that originates solely in New England. People have been talking about all that the market has to offer over the past few weeks – the freshly baked bread, the farm-fresh produce, the amazing ice cream. Produce doesn’t usually get me all that excited, but if people are raving about ice cream I need to know what all the fuss is about. Anyone with me?

Saturday was the perfect day (literally, it was 75 degrees and sunny). So, Chris and I took the short walk over to Haymarket Station to finally check things out for ourselves. Boy were we pleasantly surprised!

Boston Public Market 5

As soon as we walked in we were greeted by the smell of apple cider doughnuts. Can I say that there are few smells that are quite as delicious as that? Down every aisle were rows of local vendors (35 total!) selling anything from fresh eggs, cheese, meat, seafood, flowers and more. We bought local raw honey from the Boston Honey Company and ate an absolutely amazing meal consisting of grilled cheese and mac & cheese from Jasper Hill Farm. Seriously, you might be tempted to go order something from the juice bar, but you should just go all out and get a grilled cheese instead. You won’t regret it.

Boston Public Market 6

Boston Public Market 3

It was great to see and learn about all of the amazing food that can be made right here in New England. I love the fact that practically right outside our door we can buy local, fresh food and take advantage of all that New England has to offer. Although I had already done the grocery shopping for the week ahead and didn’t need to load up on goodies, I will plan on coming back here time and time again. Two thumbs up! 
Boston Public Market 2

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Summer Reading List Part 2

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Last week I started recapping my thoughts about the books I have been reading this summer. I really love to read, so every year my ultimate goal is to read a book a week. This doesn’t usually (ever) happen, but it is a nice goal to have. It is a bit better than my other goals such as always being in my pajamas by 7pm or finishing all of my dessert. No one can fault you for reading a lot, right?

Anyways, there were three books that I didn’t get around to discussing last week. The first of which is A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. I get really excited about a few things when it comes to books: if it is a series, if there is magic, if it takes place in another country. Is my nerdiness showing? This book ticked all of the boxes and I was very excited about it.

A Darker Shade was just the magical adventure I had been looking to go on this summer. I loved following Kell through magical London, learning the many mysteries of the foreign world he lived in. The story was fast-paced and a definite page turner. The only thing that disappointed me was that I finished it too quickly and book two is not set to be released until February 2016. I get very impatient when I am waiting to find out what happens next!

Next up on my list was In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. Now, I don’t think I had ever read one of Judy Blume’s books for people over the age of 12, I can only remember reading her books when I was little. So I was pretty excited to read a book that put me in the grown-up category, like I’m cool now or whatever. Anyways, once again I had no idea what I was getting into with this story. I liked the writing and felt connected with Miri and her family. The beginning was a bit derailing, because there were so many characters that I didn’t quite understand who I was reading about or why. And then I did. There was a plane crash. Oh, and then another and another.

And then I was very sad for the rest of the book. I do not like being sad, so once again this book was a doozy for me to get through. Lots of tears. I finished it and sort of enjoyed myself in that way that you don’t really feel good but are kind of happy you did it. I guess. You know what I mean?

But then, here is the kicker… I thought that this book was completely fictional, but it wasn’t. At the very end in the author’s notes I learned that it was inspired by something real, meaning three real plane crashes. After that, everything seemed terrible and gut wrenching and painful. I cried and cried. I still think about it and tell people how sad it is. They just look at me like I’m a nut, because I am. I will say that it was a good book, but maybe you should go into it knowing that some of it was real? Just a suggestion.

The third book was meant to be Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. After all of the other books I read that were sort of depressing, I just couldn’t even make an attempt. I heard the reviews about this and felt like this was not the summer that I could deal with a book ruining Scout and Atticus. I just couldn’t. So back on the shelf it goes. Did anyone else give it a go? Or do you have any must-reads to finish out the summer with?

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Summer Reading List Part 1

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Fall is coming, fall is coming!

Okay, I won’t rush things, but can you feel it? I can and I just love it. I know we are still a month away, but I needed a sweater on my walk to work this morning and I could really use some apple pie. Just saying.

Anyways, since fall is creeping around the corner I thought I should give you an update on a few of the books from my summer reading list.

Before I get into it, I should probably confess a few things: 1) I am not a literary expert and read strictly for my own personal enjoyment 2) I rarely, hardly ever know the plot of a book before I read it. Usually I like reading this way because I literally have no idea what is going to happen, but this summer it kind of backfired on me. More on that later…

So, first on my list was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye by Rachel Joyce. This book had been sitting on my imaginary book shelf for quite a while, and boy I wish I had pulled it down earlier. It started off a bit slow, kind of ordinary and plain. At first I didn’t think it was something I would be able to finish because it didn’t seem exciting enough. Then Harold Frye hooked me, he hooked me real good and I just had to know where Harold ended up on his adventure. I rooted for him, cried with him and realized that even the ordinary and sometimes plain moments of our lives are inspiring, exceptional, exciting. It was a beautiful story that I found really moving.

Next up, I read The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. This was a book I was really excited about and it did not disappoint. A story about friendship, loyalty, doing the right thing and being yourself. Alex is brave and curious, and no matter the circumstance he stays true to himself.

I learned a lot from Alex and Harold and loved following along on their adventures. However my next book, Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, was not quite as easy to get through. Remember how I said that I don’t do a lot of research before I pick my books? Well, I didn’t look into this book and it was a mistake. The only thing I knew was that it was a mystery, sort of Gone Girl-esque. I love a good mystery, so I thought that this would be a great summer read.

Well, it wasn’t. It was really, really, really dark. Like really dark. I would often times have to put this book down and walk away because I simply could not take it anymore. I would lay in bed with tears rolling down my eyes murmuring “I can’t believe this.” Chris would walk in, shake his head and say “stop reading such depressing books.” He might have a point.

At some point, I forced myself to just keep reading and power through it, hoping that the end would make me feel better. It didn’t, not one bit. If you are looking for a lighthearted read, this is not it.

I’ll finish up with the rest of my list next week, but in the meantime have you read any good books (or bad ones) this summer?

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Lazy Day Summer Essentials

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Sunday is the first official day of summer. I love a lot about summer. I especially love margaritas, bright nail polish, sandals and ice cream with sprinkles. One thing that I do not like one little bit is the heat.

Yes, I know that I am from Florida and so maybe I should be used to hot weather. But, living in the city during the summer is a completely different animal. Everything is sticky or smelly or stifling. After a quick 15 minute walk you just start to melt. It is utterly unattractive.

When I lived in NYC the crowds in the summer were unreal. NYC crowds = gross smells and frustration. I would try to avoid the tourist areas and breathing at all costs, but walking on 5th Ave could sometimes be a great relief when you’ve had a long day. If you time it right, you can get a whiff of the air conditioning from the fancy store doors opening and closing. City summers make you desperate.

When it gets hot in Boston, one of our favorite summer escapes is to go to the Esplanade and spend the afternoon by the Charles River. We have a favorite spot under a big tree that keeps us under the shade while the breeze from the river keeps us cool. We like to bring Barley and our picnic blanket and lounge around reading and listening to music and podcasts all afternoon. It is so peaceful and relaxing. I just love it.

Since summer is officially here, these are a few of my favorite things for lazy days spent lounging outside wherever you are:

Picnic

Grass is Greener Picnic Blanket $45; Break the Ice Cooler Bag $50

Sun Protection

Supergoop! Acai Fusion Lip Balm SPF 30 $8.50; Clinique Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen Body Cream $23Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 15

Summer Hair Sun Care Protective Hair Veil $28; Davines This is Sea Salt Spray $27; Ombre Straw Sun Hat $34.50

Happy Summer!

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My Summer Reading List

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Reading is hands-down one of my favorite things to do.

When I was in school, I used to love summer break because I could spend days at a time lost in a book with no interruption. I would start my day reading out by the pool, then move inside and sprawl out on the couch, and then finish out the evening by reading all curled up in my bed. It was totally lazy and absolutely glorious.

I can’t really do that anymore because of you know, life and stuff. The good thing is that I tend to be a pretty quick reader so I try to sneak in a book whenever I can. Also, I keep track of what I’m interested in and am constantly finding new books to add to my ever-growing list on Goodreads (check it out if you haven’t already).

I still plan on spending an ample amount of time this summer reading, despite the fact that I am now an adult with responsibilities and a life. So here are a few of the books that I am hoping I can escape into this summer:

The Universe Versus Alex Woods

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

In The Unlikely Event

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Luckiest Girl Alive

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

What books do you have on your summer reading list this year?

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How to be Happy with Gretchen Rubin

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This might seem a bit silly, but sometimes I struggle to answer simple questions about myself. And no, I’m not talking about how I accidentally tell people I’m 26 when I’m really 25 because that is honestly an easy mistake that anyone could make…

What I mean, is that I just don’t know the answers to basic things that you would assume most people know about themselves. Things like who is your favorite band or what is your favorite movie? It really drives Chris crazy.

You are probably thinking I sound nutty or like some sad wandering soul. I don’t think that is true though. I just think that life moves so fast that sometimes we forget to stop and realize what makes us happy deep down to our core. Or at least I do.

So anyways, I have sort of been on a quest to get to know myself once again. Yes, that sounds incredibly cheesy. But that is my life, it is filled to the brim with cheese.

One of the stops on this quest has been listening to the “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” podcast.

There are a few reasons why I like this podcast, the first of which is that it fills the empty void in my walk to and from work now that Dear Mr. Potter is over. The second is that in just 20 minutes or less I learn some really interesting tips on how to be happy and have positive habits. A win-win.

So, every week Gretchen teams up with her sister Elizabeth to provide helpful tips that can be implemented into daily life. They also offer some really great insight into how you can better get to know yourself, and the people around you.

There are some things that I listen to and simply know will never happen in real life…like setting an alarm for your bedtime (I’m looking at you Christopher). But, overall I find it super helpful and it just makes me happy.

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The Girl on the Train

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There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home. – Paula Hawkins

Have any of you read this book yet?

I was in the mood for an easy read, the type of book that I just can’t seem to put down and get completely sucked into. A bonafide page-turner. Needless to say, Paula Hawkins mystery thriller did the job. I started it Monday night and finished it Tuesday before bed. Boom.

Oh and did I mention that it is a thriller? Because it isn’t thrilling like a roller-coaster ride can be thrilling. It is thrilling like you are on the edge of your seat wondering what happens next and who did it. It kind of gave me bad dreams, but totally worth it.

I won’t really get into the details of the book because you really should just read it. But one thing that I found fascinating was learning that I’m not the only one (hopefully) that pays attention to strangers. Who takes comfort by imagining stories, lives, happiness for them.

Rachel does this in the story. We discover this at the very beginning, seeing her interest in a couple that she watches from the train window.

It might seem weird to name people or create lives for people you haven’t met, but I sort of do this all the time.

For instance, I walked by an old man wearing a backpack yesterday who was eating an ice cream cone who asked me for directions to South Station. I told him where I thought it was (I’m terrible with directions) and then as I walked away I prayed that he wouldn’t get lost and that he would be safe. So to comfort myself, I created a story.

I imagined that he came to the city for a big adventure all on his own. That he ate ice cream and french fries and went to the park and played with the dogs and did whatever he wanted and loved it. At the end of the day, he went back home to his family and his wife was upset that he ate ice cream before dinner. Then, the whole family sat around the table listening to him share stories about his adventure. I imagine that he has a life full of love.

I hope so anyways.