Read It: The American Heiress

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Title: The American Heriess

Author: Daisy Goodwin

Book Number: 2 out of 75 (as part of my 101 Things in 1001 Days journey)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆  (One star = couldn’t finish; two stars = didn’t like; three stars = enjoyable; four stars = great read; five stars = fantastic)

Summary: At the turn of the century, Cora Cash is the only child in the one of the richest families in America. Despite their beautiful homes and extravagant parties, her mother is not satisfied. She is determined to become part of society’s most elite, and will do whatever she can to ensure Cora enters into a marriage that will raise their family’s status from one of new fortune to unquestionable superiority. To Mrs. Cash, that means packing up her daughter, traveling to Europe, and looking for an appropriate suitor among nobility. Much to the surprise of society both in England and America, Cora Cash finds herself marrying not just any nobleman, but the Duke of Wareham. After a whirlwind proposal and wedding, Cora struggles not only to navigate the subtleties and secrets of English society, but of her new husband. After a lifetime of money dictating her choices and how people treat her, Cora must dig deep within herself to find out who she truly is and what she wants her life to be.

Thoughts: This book has gotten rave reviews, and it is about the intricacies of high society of both America and England in the late 1800s. If there are two things I’m a fan of, it’s good books and history, so I figured this book was perfect for me. I have to say, I was a little disappointed, but it was probably because my expectations were so high. The book is pretty long, and at times can feel a little slow. In other words, for most of the novel, I didn’t really have a lot of trouble finding a place to stop and put the book down for a bit – until the last 100 pages or so. By the end, the story had really picked up. All the events and tension building throughout the book come to a head and set off an intense chain of events leading to a dramatic conclusion.

I was a little taken aback by the way the book ended. It first it felt a little abrupt, but I realized it was because I had been reading this lengthy book for so long that I had become committed to the story and wanted (or maybe just expected) it to continue. I think it was also because the title of the book, and the fact that it was told from mostly Cora’s point of view (as well as that of her mother and maid), made me believe the book was supposed to be about Cora’s life. However, in truth the book is more centered on marriage – the reasons why people enter into marriage, how those reasons and the past affect the marriage, how marriage changes people, and the choices and sacrifices marriage requires. As a newlywed, I found this theme of the novel the most intriguing – despite the fact that my modern marriage took place after four years of dating someone from my native country, not a foreign nobleman I only knew for a couple weeks. The American Heiress was a wonderful novel, but because of the length and sometimes dragging of this book, I would recommend it only if the time period and gossipy, romantic elements strongly appeal to you.

Have you read The American Heiress? What did you think? If you’re a fan of historical fiction, are there any other books you’d recommend?

Are you on GoodreadsI am. Let’s be friends!

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Blue Jackets Game…and Speaking Up

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At the beginning of the year, I created a 101 in 1001 list. On my list was attending a Blue Jackets game. I had never been to an NHL game before, and the Blue Jackets are the NHL team in Columbus, OH, my husband’s hometown. So for Christmas, I bought three tickets for a game (for him, his best friend, and me) to attend while visiting Columbus for a weekend.

We went to the game a couple weekends ago. It was fun! The atmosphere at the game wasn’t quite as exciting as I hoped it would be, except when a shot was close to being a goal scored, a goal was scored, or a fight broke out. I’m used to college hockey games in a much smaller setting, so that might be why. The first period of the game was really fun, though! Hockey is definitely a sport, like football, that I prefer watching in person.

In between the first and second period Dan and his best friend, Tristan, said they were going to go to the bathroom and asked I wanted to walk around. I said no, I’d stay there. After a couple minutes by myself an older gentlemen came and sat next to me. He was friendly and was made small talk, and by all signs was harmless. But he kept touching my knee and my back, which made me uncomfortable. Then he asked me to blow my nose into a tissue and then give it to him so he could keep it in his special collection of tissues so the Blue Jackets would maintain their winning streak. I declined, feeling even more uncomfortable.

But I didn’t get up and walk away. I didn’t ask him to leave. I just kept making polite small talk. I don’t know why I didn’t pursue either of those totally logical and legitimate options when I was in a situation that, though extremely weird was most likely harmless, made me feel uncomfortable. I guess because I didn’t want to be rude or hurt someone’s feelings. I didn’t want to make “a mountain out of a molehill.” But I felt uncomfortable, so even if it wasn’t a situation in which I was in harm’s way, I shouldn’t have felt like I was being rude or dramatic if I spoke up or walked away. I am sharing this experience because I think a lot of people get into situations where someone is overstepping limits and nothing is said or done about because they fear being impolite or dramatic, or they just hope by ignoring what’s happening it will go away. I have no problem encouraging my students, family, and friends to stick up for themselves or defending them if I feel their well-being is threatened in the slightest manner, but for some reason, when it was just me, by myself, with no one else I knew around me, I shut down. I hope I’m never in an awkward and uncomfortable situation like that again, but if I am, I know I owe it to myself – and the person who is pushing boundaries – to speak up and make it clear what is happening is not okay.

Eventually the man got up and left, and I immediately texted Dan and Tristan what happened and to hurry back (why hadn’t I done that earlier? Because there was no way I could text without the man seeing what I was typing…and again, I was afraid of being rude). When they returned, we left our seats and spend the rest of the game walking around the arena and watching the game from another spot. We still had fun, but I hope I can go to another game sometime in the future so I can hopefully have a more overall positive experience.

Have you ever been in an awkward and uncomfortable situation where you didn’t speak up? Or that you did?

My Life: What’s Up

 

 

What’s New:

  • She’s okay now, but Madison hurt her leg playing two weeks ago. She was crying and couldn’t put any weight on it, so we took her to the ER vet. The vet said she probably partially tore something in her leg, so we’ve made sure she’s been taking it easy, not walking up and down stairs a lot, not jumping on and off furniture, etc. We also found out she has arthritis in both her back legs, so we are looking into the best ways to help her.
  • This season our team hosted an invitational meet that is annually held between the three high schools in the district and local private high school. It hadn’t been held at our school in almost ten years, but we worked really hard and pulled it off! It went well and I’m glad it’s over.
  • This winter has been brutual! Our district used six calamity days in January alone. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up!

What I am…

  • Reading: I just finished reading The American Heiress (review to posted later this week!). I am going to start reading The Friday Night Knitting Club next. I’ve heard good things about it; have you read it?
  • Watching (TV): My favorite shows are The Mindy Project, Community, Bones, and Parks and Recreation. Are you watching the current seasons of any of those shows? I love How I Met Your Mother, too, but I didn’t enjoy the first couple episodes of this season so I wasn’t anxious to keep up, and now I’ve fallen way behind! HIMYM fans, it’s gotten better, right?
  • Watching (Netflix): Dan and I started watching and quickly finished Orange Is the New Black. It’s an awesome show about life in a women’s prison. I can’t wait for season two! We are currently watching Friday Night Lights. We can’t get enough! Does anyone else love that show?
  • Listening to: Pure Heroine by Lorde. The CD has been on repeat in my car ever since Dan got it for me for Christmas. 
  • Doing for fitness: A couple months ago, Dan and I joined a gym just a few minute drive from our apartment. In addition to swimming at the gym’s pool, I also log time on the cardio machine and do Tone It Up! routines. With swim season, I am have only been getting to the gym a couple times a week. I love coaching and will miss it when the season is over, but I am looking forward to having more time to work on my fitness goals!
  • Posting: I have a fitness Twitter account I have shared on this blog before, but I changed my username recently from @getfitgetstrong to @kcdaily_fit. In addition to my personal Instagram @beagleandbear (which I am a bit obsessed with), I have a fitness Instagram @beagleandbear_fit. Feel free to follow me!
  • Loving: Madison is recovering well, the days are getting longer again, curling up on the couch with a big cup of tea and a book, the White Barn Candle’s scent Winter, snacking on pretzel sticks.

What is new with you? 

weekly gems

 

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 Sunset in Columbus last weekend

 

Watch It: Perry Mason

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Here we are, on snow day #5 of the school year (2nd in a row of this week). This winter has been brutally cold! As a teacher, I of course enjoy the snow days (any teacher who doesn’t enjoy them, even a little bit, is lying to themselves and to you). However, as a high school swim coach, I’m not a great fan of snow days getting in the way of practice. Since I can’t control the weather or the district’s calling of snow days, though, I try not to stress out about it and fully enjoy my snow day. A key component of that enjoyment, for me, is watching Perry Mason reruns.

Perry Mason is an American court drama that aired from 1957-1966 on CBS.  Every time I have the day off of work and I have the opportunity to catch a rerun, I do so because

 

  1. Perry Mason is a smart show. Like a lot of people, sometimes I attempt to take care of things on the computer or play around on my phone while also half-paying attention to what’s on TV. I can do this with Bones (one of my all-time favorite shows), Law & Order, Body of Proof, etc., but I can’t do this with Perry Mason, not without missing a key detail. The show is well-written, with its focus based on the relationships and motives of its characters, rather than on shocking acts of violence, intense action sequences, or emphasis on technology.
  2. The acting is fantastic. Raymond Burr starred as Perry Mason, earning two Emmys during the show’s duration. Barbara Hale, who played Mason’s secretary Della Street, earned an Emmy for her role on the show as well.  William Hopper, the actor who brought Mason’s private detective Paul Drake to life, was also nominated for his work on the show.
  3. In addition to wonderful acting by the series regulars, Perry Mason often featured guest stars past and present viewers would get a kick out of seeing. Such stars included Dick Clark, Robert Redford, Leonard Nimoy, Cloris Leachman, and Bette Davis.
  4. Perry Mason is mostly formulaic. Most episodes begin with a scene or two introducing the soon-to-be defendant and victim. Perry somehow gets introduced and linked to defendant. Someone is killed. Perry and the police both begin their investigations. The evidence keeps pointing to Perry’s client. A hearing or trial occurs. Perry presents his case and ends up revealing another person as the lead suspect. More often that not, that person will end up confessing on the stand. The episodes almost always end with Perry, Della, and Paul, and sometimes the client who was just proven innocent, chatting and laughing in Perry’s office or in a restaurant. A lot of people don’t like it when their shows are formulaic, but as someone who thrives in routine, I enjoy it – especially since every show includes a new mystery to fit into that formula.
  5. It’s a black-and-white blast from the past. I love watching reruns with my dad, who remembers watching them with his late mom when the show was originally on air. The men all wear suits, trench coats, and hats, and the women all wear pencil skirts and have their hair and lipstick perfectly in place. It’s a fun trip back in time to an age that many people view as classy and more wholesome, but via storylines that remind you no time was truly an age of innocence.

Perry Mason episodes are currently shown on MeTV and the Hallmark Movie Channel.  You can also find full episodes available for streaming here.

 

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things that are making me happy

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  • All the kinds of flavored coffee Dan & I got for Christmas
  • Staying safe & warm during this terrible weather, and the fact that my friends and family are, too
  • The perfect planner for a new year
  • New leggings to wear while rocking workouts at the gym
  • Speaking of workouts…I’m loving prepping for my first masters meet and participating in Tone It Up’s Love Your Body series!
  • Working ahead to finish the second half of swim season strong
  • Cuddling up with Madison, a good book, & a cup of tea
  • Sending and receiving hilarious texts with friends
  • Marathons of favorite TV shows
  • A good night’s sleep
  • Only 36 days until pitchers and catchers report!

What is making you happy as of late?

 

Read It: The Cuckoo’s Calling

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Title: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Author: Robert Galbraith, otherwise known as J. K. Rowling

Book Number: 1 out of 75 (as part of my 101 Things in 1001 Days journey)

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (One star = couldn’t finish; two stars = didn’t like; three stars = enjoyable; four stars = great read; five stars = fantastic)

Summary: Cormoran Strike is down on his luck. Having sustained a serious injury while serving in Afghanistan, he has returned to  London and opened his own struggling private detective agency. Already stressed with the debt he’s accumulated, Strike suddenly finds himself homeless when he and his long-term girlfriend finally call it quits. Fortunately for Strike, his luck is about to turn around. On the very day he finds himself now living out of his office and ignoring his lenders’ calls, a man named John Bistrow enters and begs him for help. Bistrow’s adopted sister, Lulu Landry, was a world-famous supermodel who fell to her death months earlier. Though ruled a suicide, Bistrow is convinced the police are wrong and Lulu was murdered. Strike, despite his doubts, accepts the case and soon finds himself sorting through the lives and secrets of multimillionaires. With the help of his temporary secretary Robin, Strike must prove to everyone Lulu was indeed murdered…before more innocent people fall to their death.

Thoughts: I’m a sucker for a good mystery. I usually read more lighthearted ones such as the Stephanie Plum or Heather Wells novels, but I was drawn to this book for a pretty common reason: It was actually written by J. K. Rowling, who has more than proven herself as one of the best storytellers of our lifetime. I have to say, though, it is not obvious it is written by her. Is it written in a descriptive, engaging, well-thought out manner? Absolutely. But while I was reading I didn’t feel like I was reading something written by an author I had read before. Every now and then I read a passage and thought, “I can see J. K. Rowling’s touch here,” but I doubt I would have thought that if I was reading it without knowledge of the true author. I think she did an excellent job of writing a totally different genre for a different audience, as do many other readers who wrote rave reviews of the novel before her identity was leaked. The character development was superb. While the actual storyline of investigating and solving the mystery could have felt slow at times, my attention was strongly held by the characters’ interactions and the singular personality of Strike. I especially enjoyed that while most the attention was focused on the main character of Strike, that Robin, his secretary and sort-of deputy, was given specific focus at times. It added depth to the story and perspective on Strike. Overall, I loved this book and eagerly await its sequel due out this year.

 

Have you read The Cuckoo’s Calling? What did you think? What about The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s first post-Harry Potter adult novel? I received both as Christmas gifts and I’m excited to read The Casual Vacancy soon, too.

Are you on Goodreads? I am. Let’s be friends!

Above image source

101 Things in 1,001 Days

With it being New Year’s Day, I, like a lot of society, am excited for a new year and fresh start. I’ve written New Year’s resolutions pretty much every year for as long as I can remember. Recently, in the years 2011, 2012, and 2013, I created and followed what I called the New Year’s All Year Challenge. It went okay for me in 2011, and pretty well for me in 2012, but I did not keep up with in 2013. A lot of changes occurred in my life this past year (like moving out of my parents’ house, getting married, a new job, etc.), and trying to stay focused on multiple goals every month on top of those changes started to feel very overwhelming for me. I eventually let go of them because I tend to be a perfectionist and my lack of progress on them (due to focusing on all the other big events and adjustments going on) was unnecessarily stressing me out. While my 2014 isn’t currently shaping up to have the type of life-changing events 2013, I have decided to forgo doing a 2014 New Year’s All Year Challenge for the similar reasons. I want to achieve my goals in life, but I want to make sure I am doing so in a balanced way that doesn’t put unneeded pressure on myself.  I want to enjoy the journey and make sure I am having fun and spending time with those I love.

I am a longtime fan of Mackenzie Horan of Design Darling, and I recently realized her 101 Things in 1,001 Days project is perfect way for me to approach the next year. Well, really, the next 2.75 years. As she described it, it’s a “happy medium between writing a to do list and keeping a bucket list. It’s a way to dream big and make regular progress toward meeting those longer term goals.” So, I have crafted my own list and will begin my journey today! I look forward to sharing my progress and experiences with everyone. Happy New Year!!! : )

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Start: January 1, 2014

Wellness

  1. Compete in a masters swim meet.
  2. Complete a triathlon.
  3. Meet my goal weight.
  4. Do yoga every day for a month.
  5. Stop biting my nails.
  6. Complete a Bible study.
  7. Try every fitness class offered at my gym.
  8. Take a self-defense class.
  9. Give up swearing for Lent (and see if it lasts after that!).
  10. Complete a plank challenge.
  11. Floss every other day for a month (and see if I can finally maintain the habit).
  12. Go to the eye doctor.
  13. Eat as a vegetarian for a month.
  14. Complete a squat challenge.
  15. Try 20 different workouts from what I have saved from magazines over the years.
  16. Practice meditation/mindfulness every day for a month.

Outings/Travel

  1. Attend a musical I’ve never seen before.
  2. Revisit the major museums in Cleveland (4).
  3. Go to a Blue Jackets game.
  4. Go apple or berry picking.
  5. Attend a live comedy show.
  6. Ride the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
  7. Eat at five new-to-me restaurants in the Cleveland or Columbus area.
  8. Go on a tour of a brewery.
  9. Attend a professional orchestra concert.
  10. Visit the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.
  11. Go camping.
  12. Visit the Underground Railroad museum in Cincinnati.
  13. Obtain a passport and use it, even if only to travel to Canada (the only other country I have ever been in besides the U.S.).
  14. Visit the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton.
  15. Take Madison to the dog beach.
  16. Visit Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  17. Attend Dinner on the Diamond again.
  18. See a major league baseball game in a stadium I have never been to before.
  19. Go to a BGSU home football game.

Family/Friends

  1. Send Christmas cards to all of our family and friends before the holiday.
  2. Host a book club meeting.
  3. Prepare a meal for my family using an outdoor grill.
  4. Do something extra special for each member of my family.
  5. Host a fancy brunch for my friends.
  6. Mail my closest friends and family cards for each birthday during these 1,001 days.
  7. Throw a party for my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary.

Service/Philanthropy

  1. Donate to PAWS in Madison’s name.
  2. Donate toys to kids in need.
  3. Donate to BGSU.
  4. Complete 25 random acts of kindness.
  5. Donate blankets or coats to those in need.
  6. “Pay it forward” at a coffee shop or at a tollbooth.
  7. Donate books to an organization that distributes them to those who need them or volunteer with a literacy organization.
  8. Complete 40 service hours.
  9. Sponsor an athlete at PSH or donate to scholarships offered through PCSD.

Hobbies

  1. Read 75 books I have never read before.
  2. Bake a pie from scratch.
  3. Make a pizza (dough and sauce) from scratch.
  4. Complete compiling and order a full wedding album.
  5. See a classic movie in a movie theater.
  6. Knit a scarf.
  7. Make 15 recipes out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
  8. Be inspired by Pinterest 10 times to either create/bake/cook something or utilize a cleaning/organization tip.
  9. Back up all my photos.
  10. Make a T-shirt quilt.
  11. Watch 10 Best Picture winning films I haven’t see before.
  12. Back up all my music.
  13. Create Snapfish or Shutterfly albums for each year since high school.
  14. Bake 12 different recipes of cookies and cut each recipe into an unique shape using our Year Of Cookies cookie cutters we were gifted for our wedding.
  15. Spend at least two months blogging consistently (five days a week).
  16. Watch Gone With the Wind again.
  17. Organize all my workout and recipe clippings from magazines into navigable binders/digital files.

Career

  1. Start a history podcast and publish at least three episodes.
  2. Organize all my previously written swim practices and planning into navigable binders/digital files.
  3. Obtain a full-time classroom position and/or begin earning my masters degree.
  4. Learn all of the world’s capital cities and the names and locations of major rivers, mountains, etc.
  5. Develop my Honors Project (from college) into a full book.
  6. Organize all my lesson plans and resources into navigable binders/digital files.
  7. Find a way to combine my loves of social media and the field of education into something that serves a resource and/or community for either teachers or students.
  8. Truly study (not just skim/index through) all the swimming books I own and organize my notes on them into navigable binders/digital files.

Things That Scare Me

  1. Sing karaoke
  2. Buy a bikini and wear it in public.
  3. Get another tattoo.

Finances

  1. Pay off the Honda Civic Dan and I purchased in March 2013 ahead of schedule.
  2. Save at least $5,000.
  3. Create a solid budget and begin cultivating spending/saving tracking habits by following it successfully for at least two months.
  4. Finish changing name on all accounts/relevant records.
  5. Write a will and a living will.

Home

  1. Buy big plastic bins and use them to organize the storage space/seasonal decorations.
  2. Set up a home office.
  3. Create and implement a rotating cleaning schedule and follow it for at least two months straight.
  4. Do an intake of my belongings, donate or toss what I don’t need, and organize what I am keeping.
  5. Find a more effective system for receiving mail, disposing of it/filing it, and responding to it.
  6. Style our bedroom.
  7. Style our living room.
  8. Buy an actual address book and use it.
  9. Clean my car and keep it tidy for at least two months.

Fashion/Beauty

  1. Find a skincare regimen that works for me and follow it for at least 30 days.
  2. Buy a grown up watch, and wear it regularly.
  3. Learn 5 new ways to style my hair.
  4. Get a pedicure.
  5. Find the perfect little black dress.
  6. Get grown-up luggage and use it (instead of using my backpack from high school!).
  7. Find my “signature scent.”
  8. Purchase a monogrammed bracelet or necklace.

 End date: September 27, 2016    

 

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Thanks for everything, 2013.

You were the best year yet. Here’s to 2014!

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