January 26th, 2015

book talk // the night circus.

While I acknowledge that I am definitely a few years behind the times in reading this book now, it has languished on my “to-read” list for far too long and I intended to (finally) remedy that this year. I recall this book having quite a bit of buzz around it because it was a NaNoWriMo book that had achieved a certain level of book club fame. Typically, I find that I avoid books that have ascended to this level (re: my weirdness about not reading Harry Potter) but, I am trying to remedy myself of that as well. So, since I’ve been feeling very under the weather recently, and spurred awake by a midnight coughing fit, I began reading The Night Circus while sipping my hot lemon and honey water. I then continued reading, interrupted only by a few fitful hours of sleep, well into the following morning. I absolutely did not want to be separated from this book without discovering how it ended.

After perusing other reviews on Goodreads, I’ve found that this particular novel is quite polarizing and people are either extremely complimentary or irrefutably frustrated. That said, I do think this book is meant for a specific sort of person. I was utterly ensconced by the imagery and writing style from the very outset. Normally, I don’t enjoy random characters being thrown in the mix after a main storyline has been established — but, somehow, when the author decided to introduce a new, and seemingly unimportant, character, I was immediately intrigued — Herr Thiessen and Tsukiko come to mind. I even liked Isobel. I suppose some people may have felt misled by the promise of a love story and, yes, while there is a love story (or maybe a few love stories, actually), what you’re really reading about is the circus as a living, breathing thing. And the circus is not actually a circus in the traditional sense, but more of a place to practice magic so as to not strike fear into muggles, because it’s all deception and illusion, don’t you see? There are no peanut shells or carnival games at this circus.

The plot itself is slow, gradual — not action-packed, but more like a chess game played over an extended period of time. Except the pawns are manipulated by sociopathic father figures who force their charges into a situation neither of them are prepared for. Additionally, although the magic system utilized in this world is not explicitly explained, I didn’t mind. I thought the mystery regarding the “game” and the circus and even the characters simply added to the mystical quality of the night circus itself. I will say, I wish Bailey had arrived in time.

Overall, I had no expectations going into this book and perhaps that’s why I allowed it to envelope me so wholly. The night circus is definitely a place I can see myself returning to in the future.

Rating: 5/5
Recommended For: anyone that’s not in a hurry

January 21st, 2015

geek chic // intentional wardrobe additions.

Lately, I feel like my outfits have been only slightly varied renditions of one another because, at the moment, there are only a handful of items in my wardrobe that I feel I can wear to work on a regular basis. I look back at my most recent blog posts and am like, “wow, I wear black leggings almost every day” or “pretty sure no one cares I am wearing that orange sweater yet again.” I am also favoring comfort over cuteness as I do have to walk to work and am typically on my feet for 2/3 of the workday. Presently, I own one pair of comfortable, classic black wedges and that is pretty much it for heels, all other heels have been set aside in favor of ankle boots, which I continually pray that I don’t wear out too quickly as I live the life of a perpetual pedestrian.

Last year, I set a goal to not spend any money on non-thrifted clothes and (I think) I was very successful. I did buy a swimsuit, a new sports bra, a couple of regular bras and snow pants / hiking gear — I consider most of these to be necessary and hobby-related purchases, but I do acknowledge that I spent money. This year, I set an intention to make some well-informed (see also: not compulsive or spontaneous) purchases up front — within a predetermined $250 budget — and then try not to spend any additional money on new clothes this year (I do have a couple of gift cards awaiting my use, but otherwise). I also wanted to invest more in basics that are still appropriate for my casual workplace. Plus, living in the city makes me want to wear all black all the time. I am just letting that desire consume me.

I want to spend my money on travel and hobbies this year and, although enhancing my personal style is a hobby of sorts, I want to continue remixing looks and finding uniform components rather than grasping at straws and trends I don’t particularly love but feel compelled to buy because I’ve spent too much time on Pinterest.

Below, I’ve compiled a collage of my intentional purchases from my two favorite places for basics.

Everlane: Seed Stitch Raglan $60 & Cotton Lawn Shirt $58
Gap: Super Skinny Khakis  $15.99 & Leather Loafers (sold out) $17.99 & Black Shift Dress $20.99

Total Spent: $172.97

January 19th, 2015

outfit no. 114

Jared and I had a museum day on Saturday. We went to the de Young to see the Keith Haring exhibit. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely taken with Haring’s artistic vision. Although I understand his motivation was primarily political and intended to shock (so many penises!), I don’t like when artists engage so wholly in mass-media that it makes the the artist more of a commodity than a creator. His use of primary colors was jarring in a way that I found distasteful. I typically enjoy more muted palettes with natural motifs (of which there is plenty in the de Young’s permanent collection). I really love living within walking distance of Golden Gate Park. This dress is a Free People frock that I thrifted for $12 (remixed here). I love it, even though drop waists aren’t my typical fare — but, coincidentally, the style always reminds me of picnics and days at the park.

Dress & boots: thrifted // Tights: ModCloth

January 14th, 2015

backpacking // lake tahoe.

The thing about having dreams is that you have to start somewhere. Dreams initially seem unattainable, thus their intangible monicker, because they require effort beyond what is comfortable. I’ve found that in life you can be a dreamer who is also a doer, or a dreamer who holds ideas like fireflies in a jar, too afraid to ever take a chance. I used to be the latter. I had a bulletin board filled with things I never thought I’d do, but slowly, one by one, I’m achieving them. One of my dreams is to take a multi-day backpacking trip, hopefully along the John Muir Trail. This past weekend, I went backpacking overnight for the first time and it was littered with hardships and triumphs both impossibly large and deceptively diminutive.

It was a weekend filled with firsts. Prior to setting out, I had never been to Lake Tahoe, or backpacked, or snowshoed, or sledded, or used any of my backpacking gear. I had thrown myself into a challenging situation (as I am wont to do) to essentially test my mettle. I strapped on metal snowshoes and walked into the wilderness. The packed snow crunched loudly underfoot where the jagged toes of the snowshoe dug in, it drowned out any other noise that threatened to impose. My bare hands stayed clasped around ski poles as I pulled myself upward and upward toward an A-frame cabin in the woods –  a Sierra Club hut, more specifically, situated at 8200 ft elevation in the Tahoe backcountry. I carried with me a 65L backpack, equipped with a 3L Camelbak bladder, my sleeping bag, pad, a stove, food, headlamp and personal clothes / toiletries. The weight rested heavily on my hips, where it would remain for the duration of the journey. Soon, however, the pack became second nature. The pain diminished and I swung the weight onto myself with ease. Days later, the skin on my hips is still raw and, as I navigate reality once more, a sudden bump fills my tender nerve-endings with muscle memory and my field of vision blurs slightly because, suddenly, all I can see is snow.

Yes, it was desolate and wild and beautiful, but it was rough. Not only was the trek physically challenging, but the physical drain coupled with my own emotions caused me to require a bit of alone time. I am an extreme introvert and often need isolation to recharge lest I simply breakdown. So, alone on a snowy mountain, watching the sun set, I struggled mightily with myself. I fought back the natural response, which was to accuse myself of being a failure for not continuing all the way to the top with the rest of my hiking group. The thing is, even at that point I had accomplished a lot. More than I would have thought possible for myself  a year ago. And, watching the sunset from a slightly lower ridge than the rest of them did not make me a failure. It did make me honest. I needed time to myself — and, to me, that’s what going to the mountains is all about: getting real with yourself. The snow-capped Sierras turned golden and I rubbed my hands together in preparation for descent. As I switchbacked down a steep, snowy ridge in the impending darkness, I felt both exceedingly humbled and tentatively confident. Maybe I can do this.

(first image: credit to Trail Mavens)

January 12th, 2015

outfit no. 113

Some people might be quick to point out that this trapeze style dress is not traditionally considered a flattering shape for my figure. However, it’s so comfortable (and bonus: work-appropriate) that I don’t care. I could belt it or add a scarf, but mostly I just wear it like this with a jacket (not pictured) or necklace. There’s also a keyhole detail at the nape of my neck in the back — very sweet. Also worth mentioning (or maybe not), my hair is ombre now. It’s more of a dark-ash blonde on top, but it’s hard to tell in the picture. As my hairstylist said, “If I dyed your hair any more blonde it would be clear” — so I think the difference between the shades is fairly stark, thus making the top shade appear darker than it is. Anyway, I like it. It’s something new for the cooler months.

Dress: H&M // Tights: Modcloth // Boots: Old Navy

January 9th, 2015

five fandom friday // my favorite things about winter.

It’s been a while since I did a Five Fandom Friday post (view my previous ones), but I really like winter and this week’s prompt spoke to me. I claim no particular season as my true heart’s favorite, there are things I like about each, but I will acknowledge that winter has a special magic I always find appealing. However, I grew up in Texas and currently make my home in San Francisco — thus, snow is not high on my list of magical winter moments and I’ve instead compiled a very “me” winter favorites list below.

x | x | x | x | x

Evergreen scent: The lingering scent of pine reminds me of Texas, and now Northern California as well. I prefer to enjoy evergreens in their natural setting rather than as a Christmas tree I will simply discard after a few weeks of patronage. When I can’t get outside, scented candles recreate the fresh-cut noble fir, pine, cedar, cypress and juniper that transport me to a Sunday morning, hiking through the woods.

Knitting: This is a recent hobby of mine, but one that I can comfortably do indoors, near the heater, while making clothes to be worn during chilly months. Dual purpose!

Campfires: My other much beloved winter smell. In Texas we had an outdoor fire pit and indoor fireplace. We burned countless fires as soon as the temperature dropped below 40. In California, fires have been relegated to camping trips only — but one of my absolute favorite things is waking up with the smoky scent of campfire curled into my hair.

Chunky knit sweaters: If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, I feel like this one is self-explanatory. I love fisherman’s sweaters!

Tea & toast: A go-to breakfast at any time of the year, tea and toast jumps up the list of cravings when winter arrives. Waking up before the sun most mornings, I find it hard to choke down a cold breakfast (I usually eat overnight oats during the summer) in our equally cold apartment. Instead, I put on warm socks and allow myself to savor a comforting meal of toast, apple butter and black, milky tea.

January 8th, 2015

road trip // arizona, the beautiful.

The first time I drove through Arizona, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I had this stereotyped version of the Grand Canyon state in my head, a caricature of it’s reality. I could not yet picture the purple-gold sunrises or gloriously vacant highways, perfect for loudly singing every guilty pleasure song. Then, as is oft to happen when you’re least expecting it, I fell in love. Arizona possesses me. It has some of the most diverse landscapes I’ve ever seen: snow, mountains, desert, cacti — you want for nothing. And I doubt I will ever tire of dodging tumbleweeds, passing abandoned Native American trading posts on Route 66, racing the train to Yuma and belting out just the right 90′s alt rock song as the quintessential cacti spotting each red mesa blur into one long panorama that plays out repetitively past my car windows.

Although I hold no special affinity for Pheonix or Tuscon, I do love Flagstaff. You see, Flagstaff is where I first realized I was falling in love with Jared. Five years ago, while on a six-person road trip, and packed like sardines in a tiny, 2-bed motel room, we ate pancakes together in a diner. Just us. While it snowed. And I realized, somewhere between the bacon and the maple syrup, that it had always been him. It still is. I couldn’t ask for a better or more patient travel companion. So, there are definitely worse places in the world to wake up than another motel in Flagstaff, Arizona (after being snowed in the night before) on New Year’s Day.

January 5th, 2015

book talk // what I read in 2014.

((taken from my Goodreads list))

I set reading goals every year on Goodreads — to be honest, tracking what books I’ve read for recall at some later date is my favorite feature of that site. Plus, I think having attainable goals with a visualization of my progress is important for achieving success. In 2014, I intended to read 50 books, 3 of which would be graphic novels of some kind. I am very pleased to announce that I have met that particular goal, as illustrated in the list above. This beats my 2013 number of 34, so I am feeling fairly cocky about the whole thing.

I reviewed a few books on the blog this year (something I hadn’t done before): Flesh and Fire // Fangirl // the entire Saga series.

I also read some standout novels that I didn’t write reviews for, but kind of wish I had: Wild // Shades of Milk and Honey // Americanah // The Interestings // Ammonite // The Best of All Possible Worlds

In 2015, I hope to reach my reading goal of 50 books (not including the books I am “required” to read for my job) and post more reviews on the blog. I don’t know if anyone cares what I reading — but, when I finish a novel I am typically overcome with ALL the feelings and lack a safe place to vent them. I will usually write in a journal or email someone who has read the same book. I suppose that’s the intention of book clubs and probably the true intent of Goodreads — but, instead, I am going to throw a bunch of hyperbolic words into the toothless void that is the Internet. Excited??

What are some standout books you read in 2014? Any reading goals for this year? Tell me, tell me!

January 3rd, 2015

2014 // in review.

Went on a Caribbean cruise to Honduras, Belize & Mexico.

Sold my house in Texas & relocated to San Francisco.

Started a new teaching job.

Attained the halfway point in my M.Ed program.

Roadtripped from Texas to California (twice).

Flew to Richmond, Virginia to party with bloggers.

Overlooked the Grand Canyon during a snow storm.

Did a lot of hiking and camping, like a lot.

Finally got my tea-themed half sleeve tattoo.

Visited wine country & joined a wine club.

Walked through the cells on Alcatraz.

Experienced my first earthquake.

Formed a merry band of SF ladyfriends.

Reached my personal reading goal of 50 books.

Learned how to knit & finished my first scarf.

Primarily thrifted any new clothing & reached 100 ootd posts.

Drank all the milk tea & played a lot of video games.

Went to a Saga comic book signing & met Brian K Vaughan.

((read my 2013 in review post))

December 23rd, 2014

camping // joshua tree nat’l park.

Determined to incorporate a bit of fun into our 30 hours in 3 days holiday road trip — I suggested we make an overnight stop in Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve been wanting to visit Joshua Tree for a while; the Seuss-like trees appeal to my continuing love of fantasy landscapes — plus, they allow dogs. To be honest, the first day of driving was hellish. Also the sun sets at 4:30pm presently. So, we arrived at the park chasing daylight, exhausted and cranky; then, upon finding a campsite at Jumbo Rocks (my ideal spot) I was so pleased to be able to set up our site with the last few remaining rays of sunset. Unfortunately, we belatedly realized we’d forgotten our tent. I was (understandably) upset. Somehow, we managed to rally our last vestiges of optimism and Jared stoked an impressive campfire while I set up our haphazard air mattress sleeping arrangement in the back of the Scion.

We crowded around the fire, ate a ton of s’mores and talked until all the stars peeked out from underneath the desert clouds. Sleeping in the back of the car in 40 degree weather with both Jared and a large dog curled around my feet was a new experience, but the sunrise was entirely worth it. Despite the freezing walk to the pit toilet that initially drew us out of the car, I was very pleased we got to watch the sun rise across the Joshua trees and craggy rocks that encircled our campground. Desert sunrises are my favorite, they take on such rich, warm hues that require no filter or adjustments. So, despite the fact that this was not an ideal camping experience, it was an adventure. Sometimes an experience is truly about who you travel with rather than where you travel to.