Wednesday, September 2, 2015

30 in 30 Update.

So, for my 30th birthday, I made a list of things I wanted to complete/accomplish/do this year. That list is right here:

The List of 30:
  1. Volunteer at a soup kitchen (probably in Pontiac)
  2. Complete 3 "pay-it-forward" transactions in drive-thrus (paying for the person behind me)
  3. Write a letter to someone I haven't talked to in awhile and post it
  4. Learn to play bass guitar (fitting, as Matt refinished and gave me one as a present this year)
  5. Take a sewing class
  6. Crochet a new blanket for our bed
  7. Get a tattoo
  8. Cull my book collection
  9. Lose 100 pounds (no, it's not unrealistic-I've lost 30 in about 3 months)
  10. Celebrate 6 months of no pop (currently at 3 months)
  11. Take my goddaughter to the zoo and spend a day spoiling her
  12. Take a weekend vacation with Matt to someplace new
  13. Go through all of my clothing and donate items to charity
  14. Clean out our storage unit
  15. Make homemade bread 
  16. Learn 15 new, healthy recipes and share
  17. Go camping
  18. Finish our wedding scrapbook and albums
  19. Read Clarissa
  20. Send out holiday cards
  21. Visit a farmer's market
  22. Learn to can different fruits and make jams (and do so!-Apple butter in the fall?)
  23. Mend a few friendships (I have people in mind....)
  24. Compliment 5 strangers
  25. Give a class a weird, unexpected, and much needed extra credit assignment
  26. Finish writing my novel
  27. Participate in NaNoWriMo 2015
  28. Try 5 new restaurants
  29. Learn how to meditate
  30. Organize a surprise for someone
So let's talk about my progress so far!


I got my very first tattoo on my 30th birthday. I have plans for 4 tattoos, and at first, I was getting something different. I changed my mind last minute and decided to get this quote on my right foot. I've wanted it for the longest time, and it felt fitting as a 30th birthday gift to myself. For anyone unfamiliar, it comes from Homer's The Odyssey, which inspired my blog. I think it's also inspiring this new decade and another chance at reinventing myself. 

Sometimes I look down and forget I have it. Other times I just like to stare. :) It fits me perfectly. And yes, there is another quote I want on my left foot, but it'll probably be awhile until I get it. 

This past month I made it a goal to clean out and toss things that I no longer need, including clothes. I tackled my closet before we left for Florida and my dresser when we returned. I think I donated 5 bags of clothes and 3 smaller bags of shoes. I also ended up with 5 boxes of books-some donated, some to sell back to a used bookstore, and some for school. I'm glad all of it is out of our apartment and I rediscovered some fun things in the process. It's also a good feeling to have everything organized going into the school year. 

And, I also convinced Matt to go through his things as well-he donated 3 bags of clothes-hurrah!


Before my sister, Torrie, went back to L.A., we took Zoey to the Detroit Zoo and spent the day looking at animals and doing fun things with her. The three of us had a blast, and I think we need to make it an annual trip. 

Zoey is at a really fun age (she turns 3 in October), so it's fun to hear her talk and chatter and say ridiculously funny things.

In addition to cleaning out the clothes in my closet, I also culled my book collection (I mentioned that above). I think I finally hit the point where, unless I REALLY want to read something, I'm good with mainly reading from my shelves. I have a lot of great books waiting to be read, so I'm okay with minimal collecting. I'm still not a library person, so this works for me.

In culling, I finally let go of a lot of things I know I'm just not going to read anymore. But since I do LOVE rereading, I still have a large collection. It works for me. :)

In progress:

I'm learning to play bass guitar slowly. It hurts the tips of my fingers still, since I need to form calluses on the strings, but it's easier than it was and I'm getting the gist of learning bass clef (I play the trumpet, which is in treble clef-big difference). I need to get back into regular practice, which will be much easier now that we're done traveling.

Still no pop. And rarely any caffeine. I'm telling you, I haven;t felt this good in who knows how long. 

I'm still making progress. Truthfully, August was a bust on the weightloss front-too much time out of town and in the car made for some poor food decisions, but at least I didn't gain any weight. I actually think that being busier with school will help keep me on track. I'm planning on going from school to the gym 4x during the week and once on weekends. My goal is to lose 10 in September, so here's to that!

So far, I think I'm doing pretty fabulous on this challenge I set for myself! I still have some pretty specific tasks left, but I know I can complete them all. :)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Weekly and Monthly Round-up: August 2015.

This is going to be a short post because I have quite a few things to get done tonight. Teachers report tomorrow for our first day back (actual class starts on September 8th), and I need to pack up what I need for the week so it's at the building.

August was a bit of a crazy month. Half the things I NEEDED to get done, I didn't. I was out of town for about half the month, and spent far too much time in the car. Matt, my mom, and my brother Dave went to Florida for a week near the beginning of the month, and we drove there and back (20 hours in the car each way). The following weekend, my two brothers and I road-tripped through the Upper Peninsula to get to Green Bay for my cousin's wedding and back in 3 days. And today I went up to Bay City with my mom for a shower. I am sick of the car.

I did read a great deal at the beginning of the month, but quite honestly, I haven't picked up a book in...2 weeks? Things are busy with trying to get ready for the beginning of the school year.

We also got the news that my grandma  only has about a month left. She's had dementia for a few years and while we were in Florida, she made the decision that she was done (she's 88. She's been through a lot. I don't blame her). So, it's a bit of a waiting game, but I know it'll happen in the next few weeks. We're all a bit on edge because we know it's coming.

In any case, with everything going on, I haven't been a great blogger. But with school starting and returning to a normal schedule, I hope to get back on top of things. I may not get many posts up this week, but I already slated some time on Thursday to writing posts. I think 2x a week is perfect for me and gives me a lot of leeway. *fingers crossed*

Hope everyone is doing well.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors I've Read The Most Books From

Hi everyone! Happy Tuesday!

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish are asking us to name the top ten authors we've read the most books from! At first I wasn't sure if I could answer this question, but after looking through my reading log and Goodreads, I'm pretty sure I got the big ones. :)

Let me know below if we have any in common, or if there is an author you think I should check out.

1. John Flanagan: I actually wasn't that surprised since I currently have......16 of his books on my shelves and I just finished rereading them not that long ago. His middle grade/young adult series, The Ranger's Apprentice, has long been a favorite of mine. It's reading.

2. William Shakespeare: I'm not surprised by this one either. To date, I've read more than half of his plays, all of his sonnets, and have plans to read everything at some point. I love the bard.

3. Edith Wharton: Considering my obsession with her fabulous work, I knew she would be on this list. I've read a good majority of her novels, but I still have a small chunk to go. I keep meaning to pick up A Backward Glance, but never seem to make the time.

4. Charles Dickens: AH! My arch-nemesis....oh, I'm kidding. I consider Dickens to be a frenemy at this point. And I have read a good chunk of his work. I planning on launching into a Dickens fervor when school picks back up, so I'll be adding on more titles to my read list.

5. Willa Cather: I still have so many Cather titles to read, and The Song of the Lark has been sitting on my nightstand for far too long.

6. J.K. Rowling: Another one that I'm not surprised by. I actually want to do another reread....too soon?

7. Andrew Smith: When I saw his name in my top ten on Goodreads, I was bit shocked, but I do have a bunch of his novels on my shelf, and not one of them is unread. He's fabulous.

8. Rick Riordan: Another one that popped up on my Goodreads list that I was surprised by! I still need to read The Blood of Olympus (after I went and bought it the day it came out.....) and the Kane Chronicles!

9. Bill Willingham: Oh, you author of Fables's easy for his titles to rack up since they're comics, but I love them. So much. I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

10. Sara Douglass: I haven't read a book by Douglass since before I started blogging, but I've read everything she published. If you're looking for a great fantasy writer, give her a try. I loved her books. :)

There you have it! I like that my list has a lot of diversity! What does yours look like?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Reads and Randoms for July 2015.

This post is going up a little later than I would like considering that it's August already, but it's here!

Every month I'm doing a little recap of the books I read, as well as other random things that are highlights from the month. It's a fun way to grab everything that happened in a condense version, and allows me to give little reviews when I don't have time to write about everything (that's something I'm learning to come to terms with as I know I'll always be busy with school commitments, etc).

Anyways, July was a great month for both reading and general life excitement. Let's get into the fun stuff.

July Reads:

I ended up reading 9 books this month, which wasn't what I had planned on, but I'm happy with it. :) I read 3 more comics, listened to a full audiobook, and read a diverse chunk of fiction.

Fables Volumes 9-11 by Bill Willingham

I am still making my way through the Fables series. I did get through a big story arc, so I'm okay with waiting another month or two to continue the series. I know the last volume (22) just came out, so I do want to finish this series this year! If you like comics, this is definitely a great choice!

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

I love Andrew Smith, and with each book of his that I read, I fall more and more in love with his style of storytelling. I did manage to write a full post on this one, so feel free to check it out for my thoughts. I'm anxious to read the rest of his books (I have 3 to go), so they're on my wishlist to acquire. 

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Truthfully, this is not a title I would have picked up on my own, but there is a fellow English/Social Studies teacher at school who is also a huge reader. She reads a lot more contemporary fiction than I do, as well as memoirs, and sometimes our tastes are not the same. But I decided to give this one a go, and I'm glad I did! It's a very fast read with an interesting premise-woman faints at the gym and hits her head, and when she wakes, she thinks she's 29, not 39. It's a great story about our decisions in life and the "how did I get here?" question. I enjoyed it and have another of her books on my shelf (checked out from our media center). I'm hoping to get to it by the end of the summer. 

To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

I didn't put in my pre-order for GSAW until 3 days before it was released...mainly because I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. But, in an impulsive moment, I decided to reread TKAM and order GSAW. I read both within 4 days and posted my thoughts shortly after finishing (read them here). I'm still not fully sure how I feel about GSAW, but I'm glad I read it. 

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

After being incredibly indecisive about what book to read next, I took to instagram (follow me @alliedanielson) and this was the pick! I'm really glad you all bullied me into reading it because I loved it! It was a great story about a little known piece of American history, and it had a lot of elements I really love in a piece of historical fiction. My thoughts will be up in the next week. :)

The Martian by Andy Weir

This was probably my favorite book of the month! I gushed about it in a blog post already, but I want to restate that I REALLY enjoyed this (to the point where I'm thinking of listening to it again on vacation next week). I think the audiobook really did it for me, so if you're hesitant, go that route! I'm also super anxious for the movie to come out...just overall, phenomenal. 

Overall, July was a great reading month!

The Randoms:

My new planner. I know that's kind of ridiculous, but I love being able to organize myself in one location. I used to use planners religiously in college, but fell out of the habit a few years ago. It feels great to have a place to organize myself and set realistic goals for each day. I know it's going to help so much once school starts. 

Turning 30. Yep, hit the big 30 this month. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and my mom made that awesome cake. haha. We celebrated my sister, my sister-in-law, and my birthday on the same day! I also went out with friends and family the night of and had a great time. It wasn't as traumatic as I thought it would be. ;)

I actually did 2 painting nights this month. The painting above comes from an evening with the English department. We went out to dinner and then painted. It was a lot of fun to be out and away from school together. I also went with my mom and sister a couple weeks later. :) Torrie had never been, so it was pretty hilarious.

Spending a lot of time with family. Here I am with my sister and husband at a wedding. I spent a lot of time with Torrie this month while she was home (she left a week ago to go back to LA), and it was great. Sometimes I started to kick myself for not getting some school work done, or reading, or blogging, but family came first this month. 

My 30th birthday present from my husband. :) He custom-painted a bass guitar for me in my favorite color. I'm slowly learning how to play, and I love it. 

We took a few days to go up north to Matt's family's cabin and a group of friends came with. Torrie came, as she had never been up there, and it was a fabulous few days of good food, taking pictures, reading, and just having a great time being together with friends. Torrie is above taking some pictures in one of the fields. 

Torrie and I also took Zoey, my goddaughter and niece, to the zoo one day, It was really hot on the day we went (94??), but we had a great time with her. She's a riot and so sassy, and I love spending time with her. Our new thing is that I call her a weirdo and she tells me I'm a weirdo. :) 

Probably the biggest thing that happened all month was this. My first tattoo. :) Matt took me on my 30th birthday, and I was happy to get this-something I've wanted for a very, very long time. This line comes from Homer's The Odyssey, and is a great reminder that I can find inspiration and hope in anything.

Well, that was my July in a nutshell. Looking back at it, and all those pictures....I had a fabulous month. I've been so happy the last few months. It goes to show you what changing your mindset can do. Here's to a great August (which is already underway!). 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

“He pushed her in. And then he pulled her out. All her life, Lydia would remember one thing. All his life, Nath would remember another.” 

This book gave me a serious book hangover. It hit me very deeply, and I'm still not sure I've processed it enough to actually write about it, but I'm going to try.

The book opens with the knowledge that Lydia, daughter of Marilyn and James Lee, has died. Her body is pulled from a nearby lake, and while the authorities believe it to be a suicide, her parents are not ready to let her go that easily, especially Lydia's mother. Her siblings, Nath and Hannah, are in shock, and secrets begin to surface.

Prior to her death, Lydia was a good student and her mother had large dreams for her to go into medicine, something she had given up years before when she met and married James, and got pregnant shortly after. Lydia is her mother's beacon of a successful and happy like, and Marilyn would do anything to guarantee her daughter's success. James, on the other hand, really knows nothing about his family. He's a ghost in his own family as he focuses on his work at the local college. And while he wants the best for his children, he's not sure how to go about it. He wants them to be popular, to be successful, but has no experience with either given his own struggles growing up.

As for Lydia's siblings, little Hannah is all but forgotten by the other members of the family. She is pushed aside and often lingers in the shadows. Nath was probably Lydia's best friend until recently, but thinks she was hanging out with the wrong kind of guy. 

The book slowly unravels the secrets of the Lee family as the investigation continues and each of the family members comes to term with their own grief. It's heartbreaking. 

But as the characters grieve, we learn their secrets and that not everything is as it seems. It's a book about those secrets and the fact that even though you live with someone, talk to them, doesn't mean that you understand them and their struggles.

“The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you--whether because you didn't get to have your say, or because the other person never got to hear you and really wanted to.” 

I think that stood out to me the most about this book. That family's do have secrets. I know there are things that I went through in my life that my siblings probably didn't, and still don't, know about. And vice versa. And I'm sure that there were times when my parents heard and felt and saw what they wanted to see from each of us. Or that we pretended to feel, see, or hear just to satisfy my parents. I think that's how family works. And this story solidifies that.

It's a powerful story, and one that I'm still thinking about a month later.

“All of that will be gone by morning. Instead, they will dissect this last evening for years to come. What had they missed that they should have seen? What small gesture, forgotten, might have changed everything? They will pick it down to the bones, wondering how this had all gone so wrong, and they will never be sure.”