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Books I Read in 2013

January 1, 2014

I challenged myself to read 30 books last year, and I exceeded that goal by quite a few! I only read 28 books in 2012, so I thought 30 was a reasonable goal. I read 38, but two were reference books I read in planning our Disney vacation. I still read them, but I feel like that’s not quite the same as reading something with a plot.

Books I read in 2013:
1. The end of A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
2. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
3. My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me by Hilary Winston
4. Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield
5. The Receptionist: An Education at THE NEW YORKER by Janet Groth
6. My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock
7-9. Remember Me 1, 2 & 3 by Christopher Pike (rereads from the teen years)
10. Dog Sense by John Bradshaw (I only read half of this book)
11. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
12. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
13. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
14. The Unofficial Guide: Walt Disney World 2013 by Bob Sehlinger (in prep for our vacation)
15. The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by  Susan Veness (ditto)
16. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
17. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
18. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
19. Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
20. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
21. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
22. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
23-25. The Hunger Games, Catching Fire & Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (rereads in anticipation of Catching Fire the movie)
26. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
27. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
28. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub
29. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
30-32. Divergent, Insurgent & Allegiant by Veronica Roth
33. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
34. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
35. The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey
36. The Smart One by Jennifer Close
37. The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
38. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
39. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I know the list says 39, but remember I only read the ending of A Storm of Swords (started it in 2012) and half of Dog Sense (it just wasn’t that interesting to read the whole thing. I skipped around a lot).


Life After Life Kate AtkinsonLife After Life
Might be in my top 5 books I’ve ever read. The plot was so interesting and the story was moving. I really love reading this and I was sad to see it go back to the library when I was finished.








The Interestings Meg WolitzerThe Interestings
Another books I was sad to return to the library. I loved getting to know the characters as the story followed them throughout their lives from the teen years to the senior years. It was just about their friendships and how they lived, not much to tell about the plot, but the journey was incredible and personal and lovely.







Lemon Cake Aimee BenderThe Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Another lovely story. I’m just terrible at writing about books I loved. I don’t know how to express why I enjoyed a particular story. But this was a great read.









The Night Circus
I think this one was the victim of too much hype. I was expecting something epic. I think I would have enjoyed it much more if I had gone in without having heard anything about it first. But even if I hadn’t, the book jacket misleads you in that respect as well. It was a perfectly good book, I just expected so much more.

The Divergent Series
This one suffered from a strong first book in the trilogy as the next two got progressively weaker. It had distinct YA problems — it would have been much stronger and more interesting without the love story trope that so many YA novels feel the need to include. I wanted to throw the second book across the room at several points when it got to the relationship parts of the plot.

The Receptionist: An Education at THE NEW YORKER
Another one with a lot of hype, and this one I can’t blame on expectations, I just flat out didn’t like it. I felt the main character (who was the author) was just terrible. Didn’t enjoy reading about her life at all.

Books I’m looking forward to reading in 2014:
The Book Thief
Orange is the New Black
Reconstructing Amelia

I’m going to aim for 40 books this year. Wish me luck!



101 List Update

October 9, 2013

I haven’t been very interested in writing here lately. I don’t know what that’s about. I’ve been making a conscious effort to spend more time doing things in real life and less time on the internet, including sharing real life activities via social media, so that probably has something to do with it. I have to say, it’s been nice to kind of check out from social media. Now when I use it, I try for it to be light-hearted, fun or funny, or sharing something I really think is worth sharing, with people I actually want to be in touch with. It’s so much better now!

I think it also has to do with our upcoming vacation, and I just have Disney on the brain! But I don’t want to write endless Disney posts here. No one is interested in that! So I haven’t been updating.

But I’m six months into my new 101 list, so I thought this would be a good time for a progress report on that. I’ve crossed off 18 things already (!) and I have 16 more things “in progress.”

Completed items:

  • Get a DSLR – this was my 30th birthday gift from my husband. Used, because that’s what our budget could afford, but it’s still way better than just an iphone camera.
  • Complete seven goals in a week, which included:
  1. Tour Shofuso House Shofuso House
  2. Visit Bartram’s Gardens Bartram's Gardens
  3. Organize books by genre
  4. Participate in Delaware Fun-A-Day DE Fun-A-Day
  5. Pay for the person behind me
  6. Start an herb garden
  7. Complete a 1,000 piece puzzle Puzzle
  • Play Stratego with my husband (he won, his first time ever playing!)
  • Discover a new brunch place in the city – we went to Industry Bar in June, and it was so delicious
  • Order the chef’s tasting menu – did this when we went out for sushi for my birthday. I think ordering the chef’s menu is a great way to try new kinds of sushi!
  • Finish the living room — items that needed to be done for this to be considered complete were, patching and sanding, painting of trim, ceiling and walls, move in new furniture, hanging photos and art on the walls, and purchasing and installing window blinds. It’s technically not 100% complete (I have a couple of more pieces of art I want to hang), but I think if a stranger walked into the room they wouldn’t know it, so that counts in my mind.
  • Refurb and hang my type tray – I originally planned to use it for jewelry but then decided it was more suited to nail polish. I love having all my colors easy to see and find! Type Tray
  • Try out DVDs organized by genre – I think we like it! They’ve been by genre (instead of alphabetical) for a few months now, and it works well. I like that if I feel like a comedy, it’s much easier to find the comedies all grouped together now.
  • Make friendship bracelets with my little cousin – this was really fun, and I wore my bracelet a lot this summer. And she’s not so little anymore!
  • Foster again – this happened accidentally, which I think was the only way it was going to happen. H found two kittens in his office parking lot, so we took them in until we could find a rescue that would find them proper homes. It was nice having kittens around again. If our cats were more amenable to it, I would foster all the time. Sunday Daily
  • Put money in someone’s expired parking meter
  • Find and attend a local Native American festival – I used to go to one with my family as a kid and I always really enjoyed it, which is how it got on the list this year. I found the Roasting Ears of Corn Festival at the Museum of Indian Culture near Allentown, PA. We had a great time and plan to go again next year.

That’s all for now! I hope to be more active here now that I’ve gotten the ball rolling. See ya real soon! (Disney creeps in yet again!)

Disney Princess Makeovers

May 14, 2013

We’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World for November, and I’m very excited about it. I love the parks — there is something about being there that is truly magical. The level of detail the Imagineers put into every little thing just blows my mind, and I think because I am a creative person, I love trying to find each and every one of those details. Plus things like, when you arrive to your hotel the cast members say, “Welcome home!”. I just love that. I could go one about what I love about WDW all day long.

As I’ve been doing my research for this trip, Disney has decided to include Merida, from “Brave” into their group of official Disney princesses. All of the princesses have recently gotten makeovers, so that the older and the newer princesses all look similar. Some, like Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora have been modernized. Others, like Rapunzel and Merida, have been turned from 3D renderings to the classic Disney 2D animation style.

Merida Before and After

© Disney/Pixar

People are losing their minds over this.

A lot of people feel Disney shouldn’t be messing with the classic designs of the original princesses. A lot of others feel that they are being sexed up and are too ultra-feminine. They worry about the message this is sending our daughters. A commenter on one of the many articles about Merida said, “I cannot get over the lack of clothing on her shoulders. Why do they want our little girls to ‘look up’ to this more skanky look? I am totally boycotting all new princess merchandise.”

Another said, “This was a ‘Princess’ that I previously considered worthy of my [daughter’s] time as a role model. Now I have to explain why Disney felt it necessary for her to be pretty, thin & glittery in order to qualify as an official princess.”

I hardly think an off-the-shoulder gown qualifies as skanky, especially considering Ariel’s and Jasmine’s original outfits. Additionally, was Merida fat and ugly before? No, she was still thin, and while definitely younger looking, attractive. And just because Disney made her rendering fit in with the others (which, from a graphic design and marketing standpoint, makes perfect sense), does that change who her character is? The movie hasn’t been re-written. Her character traits are the same, and if we are teaching our daughters that because she wears a sparkly dress now she can’t be considered a tomboy, what is that teaching them? That what’s on the outside dictates who you are on the inside, that’s what. And I take huge issue with that.

A screenshot from Disney's website, pre-Merida makeover. Her animation style clearly stands out from the others. © Disney/PixarSource:

A screenshot from Disney’s website, pre-Merida makeover. Her animation style clearly stands out from the others.
© Disney/Pixar

I’ve never been a princess person. Before this whole Disney Princess makeover kerfluffle, I was even one of those people who might have tried to get her [future, possible] daughter to avoid the princesses at all costs. Princesses aren’t about empowerment! I want a strong, independent little girl! But then I started reading the many, many, many articles about Merida and the other princess makeovers and I started to change my mind.

Shouldn’t we take away the core values of these princesses, instead of judging them on their appearance and their status as princesses?

Let’s take a look at them. Even the earlier, less developed personality-wise princesses have positive traits that we can highlight for our kids.

Snow White: Probably the princess with the most focus on her looks, as the entire plot  develops from her stepmother being so enraged and jealous that Snow White is “the fairest one of all” that she tries to have her murdered. That’s pretty serious! But does Snow White end up completely damaged after this incident, as most 14-year-old girls would be? Nope, she picks herself up, brushes herself off, and after another scary incident getting lost in the forest, she finds some dwarf friends and proceeds to help them clean up their house and cooks for them, and sings and dances and has a grand old time. She’s not the most developed princess, but she’s kind, gentle, patient, and has great internal strength. Surely those are traits anyone would be happy to find their child emulating.

Cinderella: A little sassier, and a little more developed than Snow White. She’s been put to work and is treated like servant by her stepmother and stepsisters (it seems if anyone should take issue with Disney, it’s step-families!), but does she throw a fit about it? Does she run away and refuse to work, even though she would be well justified in doing so? No, she does everything that is asked of her, and she manages to stay sweet, kind, and thoughtful. She triumphs over adversity.

Aurora: Probably the weakest of the princesses as far as character development. The worst that happens to her is she grows up away from her parents and not knowing her true identity. When she finally learns her identity, she falls under the curse and sleeps until Prince Philip rescues her. But hey, if you thought you were a completely different person than you are until you were 16, you’d probably be pretty messed up right? But Aurora takes it in stride and turns out just fine.

Ariel: Sure, she’s pretty silly, completely enamored with a world that’s not her own and falling in love at first sight with a person not even of her species, and giving up her family, friends and voice in order to be with him, but she’s adventurous, curious, has a thirst for learning, stays true to her opinions even when no one agrees with her, and in the end she gives up everything she wants in order to save her family from the evil Ursula.

Belle: She loves to read (that makes her one of the best princesses in my book, right off the bat), she longs for adventure, and she learns to look beyond the surface to see who the Beast truly is inside. She sacrifices her freedom in order to save her father — she has strong family values.

Jasmine: Independent, strong-willed, wants to marry for love, not a kingdom, and wants to learn about the outside world. She knows that being a princess isn’t all there is to life, and she wants to find out what else is out there. She is also the first princess of color. What a great message for the younger generation!

Pocahontas: Our next non-white princess, Pocahontas also wants more out of life than to be a princess. She wants to discover more of the world. She’s in tune with nature, and teaches John Smith that it’s just as valuable as gold and to look and learn before he acts.  “Colors of the Wind” is an amazing and beautiful song that teaches some great values.

Mulan: Definitely one of the best princesses. Mulan does not want to change who she is in order to be found suitable to marry and then pretends to be a man in order to save her elderly father from having to go to war. She wants to be recognized for her brain and always speaks her mind. She ends up saving the Emperor and all of China from the Huns. Quite a feat for a young girl!

Tiana: Another of the best princesses, in my opinion. Our first black princess, Tiana is motivated and hard working. She works two jobs and saves all her money to achieve her dream of opening her own restaurant. When given a chance to get her restaurant the easy way, by betraying her new friend, she refuses. Tiana represents loyalty, tenacity, conscientiousness and drive.

Rapunzel: She dreams of the outside world, and prior to getting to see it she betters herself with reading and activities and learning. When she finally escapes her tower, she brings out the best in Flynn Rider. They both change each other for the better, and they both make huge sacrifices to save the other. Rapunzel is imaginative, optimistic, and selfless.

Merida: Adventurous and fearless, Merida longs to be in control of her own destiny. She is also the first princess to not end up with a prince. She loves being a tomboy, and while she makes several mistakes in her story, she learns good lessons from those mistakes.

I firmly believe that what these princesses look like, and what they are wearing on their official merchandise (can we all remember for a moment that Disney is a huge corporation, and while they have truly made some wonderful and inspirational movies, their primary goal is to make a profit) makes no difference to who their characters are. If we, as adults, choose to focus on their outer appearance, that’s what our children will focus on as well. If we choose to highlight all of their wonderful personality traits, that’s what our kids will take away from their stories. This is not to say that there aren’t problems with the princess mentality or with what is presented to our children for their intellectual consumption, or with women still being marginalized and discriminated against in popular culture today, but it’s all about perspective, and I’m glad to say that if I have a little girl someday, I will be proud to watch these movies with her and teach her the lessons that I want her to learn from them.

101 List #2

April 8, 2013

I can’t believe it, but it’s time to start another 101. Will I improve upon my success rate this time? I think I learned a lot about what I am and am not interested in actually doing from my last list, so I hope this one is more successful, and I’ve already started working on it since I started it April 1. Here are my new 101 in 1001 goals!

Start Date: April 1, 2013  End Date: December 28, 2015


  1. Get a DSLR
  2. Complete seven goals in a week [0/7]
  3. Keep a trip journal on our Disney vacation
  4. Take a Facebook break
  5. Celebrate five random “holidays” like National Sandwich Day [0/5]
  6. Attempt to purge 365 items from our home in a year [113/365]
  7. Complete a 1,000 piece puzzle
  8. Write 101 list-themed blog posts [0/101]
  9. Play Stratego with my husband
  10. Go to church on Christmas Eve
  11. Finalize and get my next tattoo inked
  12. Give yoga another try
  13. Discover 10 new music albums, again [0/10]
  14. Get Bigby trained to always come when he hears a certain command, for emergencies
  15. Get the kitties trained to always come when they hear a certain command, for emergencies
  16. Put together the FEMA recommended 3-day emergency supply [0/37]
  17. Start a journal to write down random memories that come to me
  18. Get a record player


  1. Make 10 recipes from any of my new cookbooks [1/10]
    – Chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter buttercream frosting from How to Cook Everything
  2. Bake bread from scratch
  3. Make a pie for Pi day
  4. Try five new specialty hot dogs from Danny’s Dogs or Johnny Dogs (or make my own) [0/5]
  5. Discover a new brunch place in the city
  6. Have lunch at Water Works
  7. Eat dinner at Moshulu
  8. Go to a restaurant just for dessert
  9. Get a roast pork sandwich at DiNic’s
  10. Make homemade butter
  11. Ask a server to order for me or order the chef’s tasting menu
  12. Make ice cream from scratch


  1. Start a new garden
  2. Start an herb garden
  3. Finish living room
  4. Finish library
  5. Finish dining room
  6. Finish guest room
  7. Refurb and hang my type tray
  8. Get new furniture for our bedroom
  9. Organize books by genre
  10. Try out DVDs organized by genre
  11. Buy or build a fire pit
  12. Hang our bat house and birdhouses
  13. Start a compost bin
  14. Fix up the landscaping in the front of the house
  15. Do something to at least improve how I feel when I walk into the hideous upstairs bathroom
  16. Get all the windows in the house some kind of covering (in rooms we use) [0/9]


  1. Read The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman
  2. Watch the 12 series Alan Sepinwall deems the most important of the new golden age of TV and then read his book on the subject [2/12]
    – The Sopranos
    -The Wire
    -The Shield
    -Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    -Battlestar Galactica
    -Friday Night Lights
    Mad Men
    -Breaking Bad
  3. Start training Bigby for the AKC Canine Good Citizen® program
  4. Learn about 10 strong female role models that I know very little about [0/10]
  5. Read ten books from my ‘Want to Read’ Goodreads list [0/10]
  6. Ask five people to recommend a book, read them all [0/5]
  7. Learn five constellations besides Orion [0/5]
  8. Watch Citizen Kane
  9. Fill out the family tree book I bought
  10. Read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  11. Read A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  12. Learn about five U.S. Presidents that I know very little about [0/5]
  13. Watch some of the TED conferences available on Netflix Instant
  14. Read some chapters from my New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge


  1. Experiment with watercolors
  2. Make a scarecrow
  3. Participate in Delaware Fun-A-Day
  4. Complete 10 Pinterest projects [0/10]
  5. Complete another 365 photo project
  6. Make friendship bracelets with Sabrina
  7. Make a spring or summer wreath
  8. Create chalkboard art for the major holidays [0/9]
    -Valentine’s Day
    -St. Patrick’s Day
    -Memorial Day/Summer
    -Fourth of July
    -New Year’s
  9. Bury some treasure (and leave a map to it in public)
  10. Make an advent calendar
  11. Paint a picture
  12. Build a snowman


  1. Leave nice notes for strangers in public places
  2. Send out five ‘just because’ cards [0/5]
  3. Draw a heart in 20 places [0/20]
  4. Bring Christmas cookies to public service offices [0/5]
  5. Foster again
  6. Buy someone a cup of coffee (or tea!)
  7. Buy someone a meal
  8. Pay for the person behind me
  9. Send someone flowers for no reason
  10. Put money in someone’s expired parking meter
  11. Do five free design projects [0/5]
  12. Leave a server a 100% tip


  1. Visit the Jewish History Museum in Philadelphia
  2. Tour Shofuso House
  3. Visit Bartram’s Gardens
  4. Take a Mural Tour
  5. See the gingerbread house contestants at Peddler’s Village
  6. Visit a new (to me) baseball stadium
  7. Bring Bigby to a new park for a hike
  8. Do five photo walks [0/5]
  9. Visit a new (to me) winery and do a tasting
  10. Show my husband the awesome-ness of Cowtown
  11. Find and attend a local Native American festival
  12. Visit the Newseum and the National Museum of the American Indian in DC
  13. Check out the Audubon Center at Mill Grove
  14. Visit a city I’ve never been to before
  15. Check out a roller derby bout
  16. Find and document 30 Hidden Mickeys on our trip to WDW [0/30]
  17. Visit the Bronx Zoo

My Own Little Corner

March 4, 2013

I have always wanted a makeup table, and I finally got one! I had only a little space to work with, next to our bed in our bedroom, so I needed something small. I finally found the right piece at Home Goods, but it was plain white, which was not what I wanted. Thanks to the overwhelming amount of time I spend in the internet, I knew I could just paint it to be exactly what I wanted.

Here’s how it started:

white vanity

And here it is all painted and pretty. I used a hunter green because I really wanted to paint our living room that color, but it would have made it look like a cave. So I used it here to get it out of my system.

green table 2

green table 1

And I used a simple gold leaf paint from the craft store on the details. I purposely did it a little rough and not perfectly so it would look like I found it in the thrift shop this way. Except for the shiny new finish on the green paint.


Isn’t that little print so sweet? The colors fit perfectly in our bedroom, and it’s actually a greeting card I found at Trader Joe’s. I love it!

I found the gray velvet storage ottoman I’m using as a stool on Target’s website for a great price. I’m keeping all my rarely used clutch bags in the storage part of it.

storage ottoman

I’m really happy with the whole situation, and now all my makeup has its own designated place, which is going a long way to helping my dresser top not look like a Sephora threw up on it. Progress, yay!

Same Love

February 12, 2013

This song speaks to me so deeply, I have a physical reaction to it. I doubt my words can add anything to the beauty of the song, so here it is:


Same Love by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, featuring Mary Lambert:

When I was in the third grade, I thought that I was gay, cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight. I told my mom, tears rushing down my face. She’s like, “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-k. Trippin’.”

Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn’t she? Bunch-a stereotypes all in my head. I remember doing the math, like, “Yeah, I’m good at Little League.” A pre-conceived idea of what it all meant for those that like the same sex. Have the characteristics, the right wing conservatives think it’s a decision and you can be cured  with some treatment and religion—man-made rewiring of a predisposition.

Playing God. Aw nah here we go, America the brave still fears what we don’t know. “God loves all his children” is somehow forgotten but we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago.

I don’t know.

If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me. Have you read the You Tube comments lately? “Man that’s gay” gets dropped on the daily. We become so numb to what we’re saying.

A culture founded from oppression, yet we don’t have acceptance for ’em. Call each other fags behind the keys of a message board. A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it. Gay is synonymous with the lesser.

It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from religion—gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment. The same fight that led people to walk-outs and sit-ins, it’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference.

Live on, and be yourself.

When I was at church they taught me something else: If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed. That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned when everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless rather than fighting for  humans that have had their rights stolen. I might not be the same but that’s not important. No freedom til we’re equal, damn right, I support it.

We press play, don’t press pause. Progress, march on. With a veil over our eyes we turn our back on the cause. Til the day that my uncles can be united by law. When kids are walking ’round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart, a world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are. And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all but it’s a damn good place to start.

No law is gonna change us, we have to change us. Whatever God you believe in, we come from the same one. Strip away the fear, underneath it’s all the same love.

About time that we raised up.

#21 – 100 Things That Make Me Happy (67-100)

February 7, 2013

67. Spring breezes

68. Wildflowers

69. Fireflies

70. Street fairs

71. Farmer’s markets

72. Kohr Brother’s strawberry banana swirl with rainbow jimmies

73. String lights over city streets

74. The library (any library)

75. Ferris wheels, especially on warm summer nights

76. Hammocks

77. Getting it right the first time

78. The smell of the beach

79. Tidepools

80. Fresh paint

81. Sparklers

82. Mini golf holes in one

83. The smell of a charcoal grill

84. Brackets & ampersands

85. Rainbow colors

wedding gazebo

Colorful paper flowers decorating our wedding gazebo

86. Sparkly nail polish

87. Random acts of kindness

88. Christmas songs

89. When Bigby goes crazy

90. My favorite coffee mugs

91. Patterned tights

92. Old books

93. Finishing a project

94. Using something I packed for “just in case”

95. Friendly, happy sales or service people

96. A joy happening in the life of one of my loved ones

97. Seeing my husband interact with children so naturally

98. When the radio plays the perfect amount of awesome songs to get me home without minding my long commute

99. Putting on clothes fresh out of the dryer in winter

100. Waking up and realizing I have more time to sleep

and one more for good luck:

101. Any memory from my wedding!