Goodreads Reading Challenge

Growing up, I used to read a lot – I’d constantly have my nose in a book during class (math especially). My parents made a point to encourage my love of reading; we would spend hours in Barnes & Noble and the library, and frequently took a lot of road trips with stacks and stacks of books in the backseat. But when I got to college and moved from my house to sharing a dorm room, books were pushed to the wayside as traveling with them was impractical and, you know, I was distracted by college life.

During and immediately after college, I read pretty sporadically as life kept getting in the way. My parents gave me a Kindle, and several years later a Kindle Paperwhite (which has a backlight, the original Kindle did not) which made reading a lot more convenient. But three years ago I started a new job and got really busy, and reading got put on the back burner yet again.

I was on a work trip last year when I “rediscovered” Goodreads, which is a social media site dedicated to books. I had originally joined when I was in college (I think I was a junior?) and used it to keep track of all the books I wanted to read and had read. I stumbled across a page for the 2018 Reading Challenge and decided I wanted to start reading again. With a hectic work travel schedule, I decided to play it safe and set my goal to 15 books for the year. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if I would make that.

Well, I’m proud to say I smashed that record and read a whopping 41 books last year! It started off very heavy with The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang (I had to pause for several months because the subject matter was so traumatic), and then I plunged headfirst into Regency romance novels by Georgette Heyer.

This year, I’m aiming higher for 52 books in 2019, an average of one book a week. I’m quickly running out of Georgette Heyer historical romances since I was so enthusiastic last year – I’d love some recommendations!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Ever since I first started college, it’s become a family tradition to buy and decorate our Christmas tree the weekend immediately following Thanksgiving. This year was no exception. It took a few different stops at a couple Christmas tree places due to what seems to be a Christmas tree shortage this year and a busy holiday weekend, but we did find a great tree and brought it home on Saturday. On Sunday, my mom and I spent all day prepping the house for Christmas! She really loves to bring out the festive decorations and I am her main helper elf. My dad’s idea of helping is bringing all the boxes out of storage and then taking a nap 🙂

My favorite part of Christmas decorating is pulling out all of our ornaments. When my parents first started traveling, my dad suggested that we collect Christmas ornaments from each destination. My mom really loves finding unique and handmade ones in particular, and because my parents prioritized traveling, we have tons of ornaments! I have recently become in charge of unwrapping all of them and the primary tree-decorator in the house, and it’s always so nice for the trip down memory lane with all of the older ornaments and whatever additions my mom has this year. I thought it would be fun to have a post about some of my favorite ornaments; pulling them out each year is like seeing old friends again. I actually didn’t get a photo of our decorated tree since we had to meet some family for dinner, oops.

Cuckoo Clock

It’s pretty fitting that one of my favorite ornaments is one from Germany – it’s where the tradition of Christmas trees began! My parents have had this ornament since before I was even born, from their first trip to Europe in the late 80s. They brought back several wooden ornaments home that we still have and use today, but this one is my favorite from the group. They also bought a real wooden cuckoo clock that hung in our living room, and as a kid I would get so excited each morning to pull the strings to wind it each day.

Cross Stitch Heart

The writing is faded a lot, but if you look closely you can see “2003” and “Danni” written on the bottom of the frame. I actually made this one! My mom taught me how to cross stitch as a kid and this was my first ever completed piece. (It’s also my only completed piece – I haven’t cross stitched in a very long time, but I really should start again.) I’m pretty proud of myself for how it turned out. While it’s small, a counted cross stitch can be pretty time-consuming and I definitely remember having to pull out some mistakes due to incorrect counts.

Fishing Boat

My parents brought back this little wooden fishing boat from Mykonos, Greece in 2007. It’s a little hard to tell in this picture, but it’s very small – maybe 2.5 inches long? – and fits in the palm of your hand. I love the bright colors and seeing it sailing on the tree every year.

Wire Reindeer

My younger cousin Robert is really artistic, just like his dad – I am not sure where these genes came from, because I feel like the rest of the family is decidedly not artistically bent! He’s always creating something new, and he really got into wireworking a few years back. It might be a little hard to see due to it being a wire piece and the pine needles, but it’s a red wire reindeer he made for my mom. It’s actually quite large for an ornament – I think a little taller than my hand – so I’ve started placing it really early on in the decorating process to make sure it has a good spot. (For any Game of Thrones fans, the ornament in the top right is actually an empty bottle of King’s Gold Mead which we bought at The Cuan Hotel in Strangford, Northern Ireland this past summer! The Cuan was the cast and crew’s hotel/restaurant of choice when filming seasons 1 and 2 of GOT’s Winterfell scenes.)

Gondola & Gondolier

My parents visited Venice in 2007 and brought home this gondola ornament, and I love it! Venice is known for (amongst other things) both their canals and lovely glasswork, so this little glass gondolier navigating his gondola is the perfect souvenir.

German Christmas Pyramid

If I had to pick a favorite, it would be this ornament! A Christmas pyramid is a traditional German Christmas carousel-like decoration made of wood. It has an outer structure that is (typically) pyramid-shaped (hence the name) and an inner carousel attached to a rotor fan on top. Candles are lit in candleholders attached to the outer structure, and the warm air propels the rotor fan and carousel.

I went to the German Christmas markets with my parents in 2016 and we found this tiny one in Dresden. It really spins! The ornament is actually very close in size to the image portrayed in the picture (so maybe 2.5″ in diameter? I am terrible at size/distance estimations). Germany has some really lovely wooden crafts, especially Christmas ones, and this is no exception. The photo doesn’t do it justice as the miniature tree has teeny-tiny shaved pieces for the branches.

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Top Five Travel Essentials

My job requires travel, so I’m frequently on the road (or more appropriately, in the air). I actually hit a slow spot travel-wise recently and have been home for a while, but I’m heading out again this week. Growing up, I was definitely a homebody and never expected I’d get a job that required travel, but I’ve really come to enjoy it!

I’m planning on expanding this into a whole series of posts, but I thought it would be good to start off with my top five travel essentials. Everything listed below are good for both work and personal travel, and they are all items I own and love!

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Quick Life Updates

I’ve just joined Bloglovin – feel free to follow along!

Although I don’t have many life updates, the one I have now is a pretty significant one. I submitted my two weeks notice at my previous job (my last day was on Friday) and I’ll be starting a new one in a couple weeks. I’m both nervous and excited for the change.

The job I just left wasn’t my first job out of college – the first one was not really a career path for me (I would’ve had to get a Ph.D. in Economics or Statistics or similar, and that was not in the cards) so I transitioned out of it. While I did like the one I just left, I think it was just time for a change.

Even though I pushed myself into it, changes are always kind of difficult for me. I’m pretty good at adapting once the New Thing has started, but everything leading up to that is stressful. A ridiculous but true example – I would get anxious about moving from one apartment to the other. Not just the moving part (packing is probably my least favorite thing ever, because it’s basically cleaning on steroids and I hate cleaning to begin with), but my brain always processes it as a phase in my life that I am leaving forever. Very dramatic and very sentimental, that’s me. The part leading up to to transition is the worst part, but once I move into the next phase I’m off and running again.

Random list of some things I’d like to do in the two weeks between jobs:

  • Visit my friend Dylan downtown
  • Read 5 new books
  • Take the pups to the dog park
  • Horseback riding lessons
  • Decorate for fall – do people still say basic? Because I definitely am
  • Relax!!
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Review: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Review: Cotillion by Georgette HeyerCotillion by Georgette Heyer
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on October 1, 2007
Genres: Historical Fiction, Regency, Romance
Pages: 355
Format: eBook
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Almost an heiress
Country-bred, spirited Kitty Charings is on the brink of inheriting a fortune from her eccentric guardian -- provided that she marries one of his grand-nephews. Kitty has spent her secluded life pining for the handsome, rakish Jack, who is well aware of her attachment.

A plan of her own
But when Jack fails to respond to his great-uncle's ultimatum, Kitty hatches a strategy of her own -- a counterfeit betrothal to mild-mannered Freddy Standen (who neither needs nor wants the money).

A most unlikely hero
And when Kitty's generous heart leads to all sorts of unintended troubles, there is only one man who can rescue her from more than one dreadful fix, pick up the pieces of her plotting and in the process her heart...

After a multi-year hiatus from reading (transitioning from school to the working world was a big change, plus, ya know, dumb life stuff), I’ve decided I want to get back into it. I signed up for a Kindle Unlimited membership to see if I like it (so far, very much!). Not knowing what I wanted to read, I started picking through books I’d read before and looking at the author’s other works.

I’ve read a book by Georgette Heyer before that I liked well enough, so when I read the description for Cotillion it sounded like a fun, low-stress read. I wasn’t disappointed – how stressful could a book with that description possibly be?

Cotillion opens up at Great-Uncle Matthew’s home, where he has summoned his five grand-nephews to hear the inheritance terms of his estate. He has no children of his own, but adopted Kitty Charings after her parents’ early demise and has determined the rules of inheritance: his estate will not be divided, and one of his grand-nephews must marry Kitty in order for the pair to inherit the entire estate, or none of them will inherit. He’s hoping that his favorite nephew Jack will be persuaded to offer for Kitty, who has had a not-so-secret crush on him since childhood.

Unfortunately for Kitty, Jack doesn’t like being ordered around, and declines to appear for the summons. Faced with the prospect of marrying the somber rector Hugh or simple-minded Lord Dolphinton, she impulsively proposes a sham betrothal to mild-mannered dandy Freddy instead. She’s always wanted to escape the dull estate where Uncle Matthew insists on pinching pennies as much as possible, and have a delightful romp in London.

‘I do not want neatness and propriety!’ interrupted Kitty, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes sparkling. ‘I want elegant dresses, and I want to have my hair cut in the first style of fashion, and I want to go to assemblies, and rout-parties, and to the theatre, and to the Opera, and not – not! – to be a poor little squab of a dowdy!’

While I had read a book of Georgette Heyer’s several years ago, it wasn’t really anything too impressive to me at the time; I really started reading Cotillion because some of the quotes on Goodreads said it was a really lighthearted book. Work has been really stressful for me lately, so what could be a better antidote than a Regency romance novel?

Absolutely nothing, it turns out! Silly and fun, Kitty browbeats Freddy into whisking her off to London where she gets mixed up in all sorts of affairs. Instead of the (expected) endless parties of the ton, Kitty instead takes us (and Freddy) on a tour of London courtesy of a guidebook, and attends a shockingly vulgar masquerade the ton would certainly not approve of.

Although Cotillion may be considered fluff, it’s very well-composed fluff. It features a wonderful cast of characters, from Lord Dolphinton’s harpy mother, to somber Hugh, eccentric Uncle Matthew and poetry-addled Fish; the story also has an undertone of somberness as both Kitty and her new friend Olivia are both entirely dependent on men’s fortunes to lead a comfortable life.

Overall, Cotillion is a wonderfully entertaining read and I highly recommend!

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