Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May Book List

May was the month of the sequels, as three out of the four books I read are part of a series.  This month also marks the beginning of a book club that we started here in Dallas ending in a discussion at a local wine bar once a month.

In the second book of this trilogy we find the main character, Katniss, immersed in another Hunger Game fight until the death with a major twist.  Both chilling and riveting you are further immersed into the world of Panem (the future of the US) and its shocking realities.  The romance interwoven through the story rings true with less teen angst than would be expected for a YA novel.  Rather than puppy love, we get a glimpse into the harsh reality of love in the midst of immense devastation and loss, which colors Katniss’ emotions throughout.

As the war rages on basic themes of good and evil are explored in a way that rings true filled with complexities and thought provoking occurrences.   I don’t want to give too much away so I will leave the summary at that.  This is certainly a series that will stick with you long after your turn the last page.

This book is much more entertaining than the first, maybe because we are finally getting to know the fledgling Carrie in what we now know to be the place she calls home: New York City.  As a prequel, you get to see how the beginning of her relationships are formed with her future best friends and in turn learn about their beginnings and what drives them as well.  The book ends with a definite set up for future editions.  While enjoyable, these books are really just whetting my appetite for a new adult book penned by Candace Bushnell.  I have devoured every one and each time closed the book anticipating the next one, but I feel like I can wait for the next Carrie Diaries series without too much anticipation.

This book club selection seemed like a light and fluffy read despite the deep themes that were involved.  CeeCee Honeycutt, the twelve year old daughter of a woman who is being sucked progressively deeper into mental illness and an absentee father, lives in isolation due to her mother’s outlandish behavior with her elderly next door neighbor as her only source of stability.  After her mother’s death, a distant relative takes CeeCee under her wing to live with her in a sprawling traditional Southern mansion in Savannah.  The conflicts in the novel are easily dismissed and wrapped up in a neat bow of happily ever after.  Even when such themes are explored they always fall short of really evoking a deep sense of feeling, which is unfortunate because the subject matter seemed to have potential.  

Our next month’s book club selection is Girl in Translation if anyone is interested in following along...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Escapes

Once upon a time...

There was an enchanted forest...

Where there was a door..

That led to a secret garden...

A castle loomed in the distance...

Further along the road, a larger garden unfurled...

Trailing a path to the castle gates...

Once inside the castle walls, there were many delights to behold...

Like the stunning vistas that peeked out from every corner...

This wouldn't be a real fairy tale without an evil creature, but luckily you can climb the spire stairs to escape...
And enjoy the views of the charming town below...


If one storybook castle wasn't enough, another stone castle awaited...

And they all lived happily ever after...

Images via Travelmoon
In Sintra, Portugal!

Have a great week!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blogger Awards


Thank you so much Jessie from Mix and Chic who honored me with my first blogger award!  I truly appreciate the award and delight in the inspiration I get from Mix and Chic as a daily read.  

Then, later in the week I was awarded The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award by Cammie who writes the fantastic blog A Woman's Right to Shoes (who I also gave the Versatile Blogger Award) below.  Wow, I am truly honored-two blog awards in one week!

Both awards require you to share 7 random facts about myself with you and pass along the award to 15 blogs, so here it goes:

1.  When I was 8, I went on the monorail from our hotel to Disneyland and got a winning ticket to spin the wheel in the middle of the park to win a prize.  My brother was really upset, because he thought I was going to win a car.  I ended up winning a large Mickey Mouse stuffed animal. It’s the only thing I have ever won based on pure luck-that is, until I won my Jonathan Adler luggage tag.

2.  My parents would never let us have pets growing up except fish, we always begged for a dog.  Somehow they allowed me to have a pet chicken for a time that I named Tina.

3.  I have seen a liger with my own eyes…yes, they do exist!

4.  The only continent I haven’t been to is Antarctica.  I plan on going there one day.

5.        I have a fear of flying even though I love traveling, every time we hit turbulence I’m convinced the pilot has lost control of the plane.  The scariest part of skydiving to me, is the plane ride, I was happy to jump out of that little plane.

6.  I have been face to face with a Great White Shark while in the ocean.

7.  I am a true believer in fate and amazed every time I think about all of the events that had to align in order for me to meet and marry my husband.

I'm passing along the award love to some of my daily reads and blog readers that I just adore:

A Woman's Right to Shoes (The Versatile Blogger Award)
Mix and Chic (The Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award)

*Images via Pinterest

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Destination: NYC

I'm heading to NYC bright and early today to celebrate one of my best friend's engagement at what is sure to be a huge soiree!  I can't quite seem to escape the rain and thunderstorms, as the forecast speaks of more rainy weather to come in NYC, but that will not stop me from enjoying the sites and meeting up with friends I haven't seen in too long!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

House Progress 3

It's been awhile since I updated our House Progress.  

They have finished laying the brick on the exterior.  Eventually all the brick will be painted gray and shutters will be added to frame the windows and painted black.


This is the view of the controversial arches at the entryway as you walk in the front door during the framing stage: 

Now, with the dry wall.  I can't believe I ever thought to keep them squared off!

View from the great room of more arches during frame stage:

Now with the dry wall:

They completed the wood floors in one day!  Only the stairs are left. They will be stained a much darker shade later:

Now that the boring electrical and insulation period is over I will be updating more often, as there will be much more to show...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Travelogue: Austin

I didn't know what to expect out of Austin.  I had heard mixed reviews from "this is my favorite city in the world" to "I just don't get it-am I missing something here."  I can tell you one thing it is decidedly very different from anywhere else I have been in Texas-the vibe and surrounding scenery left me disoriented-am I still in Texas?  Am I still in the United States?

The Colorado River Runs Through the City
My mom and I took a whirlwind overnight trip, trying to pack in as much site-seeing, gastronomy, and shopping as possible.

After checking in to the historic Driskill Hotel right in the midst of Sixth Street, we set out to South Congress Avenue for brunch at South Congress Cafe:
South Congress Cafe located on South Congress Ave.
We spent some time walking up and down shopping on the street afterwards.  We drove by the surrounding neighborhoods of Austin to see where people live, and I was amazed to see ramshackle homes with couches and what looked like a permanent yard sale on the front lawn next to homes that had been completely renovated with pristine lawns.  I don't think I have ever seen such disparate neighboring homes.  But as one local put it: "That's what we like about Austin."

Endless Boots at Allens on South Congress Ave.
A stop at the original Whole Foods was in order.  This Whole Foods is humongous and has every good thing about every Whole Foods you have ever been to all in one store-it even has a bar inside!

More shopping down Congress street at a few home stores including Wildflower.  Then, off to Second Avenue, for what else?  More shopping...

Here we are walking down Second Avenue to find that the street behind is surrounded and barricaded.  Come to find out, Obama is here to make a speech at the W Hotel for his upcoming campaign.

Protests, arrests, and throngs of crowds ensued.  My mom even got interviewed by the local news.

After the hubbub died down, we headed to Congress Bridge to watch the bats fly at dusk.  This phenomenon happens most nights from mid-March to November.  Unfortunately, the skies decided to unleash a storm at prime bat flying time complete with lightning that struck at varying and unpredictable spots around town.  Do I want to be on a bridge holding on to a metal railing-I think not!  We did manage to see a spectacular sunset so not all was in vain.

Downtown Sunset
Then, it was off to Uchi on South Lamar.  We had heard rave reviews of this dining spot all throughout the day.  Uchi serves uniquely flavored sushi and dishes that are a delight to the senses.  The restaurant is packed full every night, and deservedly so: the chef just won the James Beard award for best chef in the Southwest.

Images via Travelmoon
A stop in Austin wouldn't be complete without checking out the bar and music scene.  My family happens to be dedicated Bachelor watchers, so even though Brad Womack is not my favorite Bachelor we did want to check out the bars he owns in Austin.  We stopped in at The Chuggin' Monkey and Dizzy Rooster among other bars that lined the street.

Luckily or unluckily (as those who are fans of ghost hunting) might say, our overnight stay in the Driskill Hotel, which is said to be haunted was serene and comfortable thanks to their plush beds.  This landmark hotel was built in 1886 and although it has been renovated, the true character of the original interiors were maintained.  The location can't be beat right in the heart of 6th street.

Image via Driskill Hotel

The next day we managed to walk by the Congress Building and drive around the University of Texas campus before heading back to Dallas.  After an overnight trip, do I get Austin?   I think I will have to go back and let you know.  But do I like Austin? That's a resounding yes.

Image via Travelmoon

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Escapes

Last week we went to Machu Picchu on Monday Escapes.  I couldn't bear to leave Peru without vicariously traveling through the region again.  Don't forget to drink your coca tea to help with the altitude, because the air is still thin up here:

There are more magnificent landscapes to behold outside of the Inca trail...

Alpacas and Quechuan natives in colorful garb...

Soccer stadiums filled with fans...

Schoolchildren walking through the central square of the city of Cusco, which is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site...

Terracotta rooftops splayed out across the city...

And the beginning of a sunset in Plaza De Armas with the cathedral towering in the background...

Have a great week!