Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Sunday Post (6)

Good Morning and happy Sunday, readers!

Today is the last Sunday of know what that means? A new Sunday Post vlog!

If you weren't able to catch it in the video, here is the list of books received in September:
Still Life with Brass Pole by Craig Machen
The Office of Desire by Martha Moody
A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham

I hope you enjoy the video! Stay tuned for my Highlights post, which will give a more general overview of my blog, life, etc.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sanity-Saving Saturday: Allow for Breaks

Happy Saturday, readers!

It's been a pretty hectic week for me. Hopefully you aren't all feeling the same way too! But, if you are, you're reading the right post!

This week's "Sanity-Saving Saturday" tip is to allow for breaks.

It sounds simple, right? Common sense? And yet, this is something I hardly ever allow myself to do when things start to get crazy.

Something important to note is that there are two types of breaks: good breaks, and evil breaks.

Good breaks are those that allow you to collect your thoughts, relax, or enhance your productivity.

Evil breaks are time-suckers. They're the "breaks" you take, but don't feel any relaxation from.

Examples of some good breaks:
  • Baking: I love baking when I get stressed. Baking is something I'm good at; it makes me feel productive, and I love the smells as it's baking and I'm finishing my task(s)
  • Going to the gym
  • Taking a walk: This is a great way to clear your head. It's not intensive, doesn't require a membership, and makes you feel a little more productive, too.
  • Laundry: I find doing laundry to be a bit of a relaxing break. When I know I'll be studying all day, I love to do laundry. Every hour, I take a 10-minute break to wash, sort, and fold the clothes. It makes me feel super productive, it smells good, and cleans my apartment!
Examples of some evil breaks:
  • Facebook: Do I need to explain this one? I'll pop over to FB thinking that I'll just be five minutes. Not only do I waste time doing, really, nothing on there, but I also never feel like I had much of a break. Or I'll get distracted from my task(s). Or obsessively check it. Point is: Facebook is evil if you're trying to be productive.
  • Pinterest: I love love LOVE pinterest...but it's horrible for my productivity! All it does is add to my to-do list. Example? I'll be looking around on pinterest and see some nail polish I like. I look at my own, plain, unpolished nails with sudden urgency. This must be fixed right away! Next thing I know, I'm spending 20 minutes painting my nails instead of doing anything worthwhile--and painting nails is not a priority.
  • Cleaning: I know this looks weird, since I believe baking and laundry are good breaks. But seriously, cleaning is a horrible break for me because it's like Pinterest: my to-do list gets super long! Baking and laundry are finite tasks: once you've completed them, you're done. Even though I've tried making cleaning a finite task (ie I'm only going to clean the toilet and the shower), I then realize there's so much more that needs to be cleaned! Evil spiral!
  • Watching TV: this is such a time sucker. Does anyone really feel like just watching TV was a good "break" for them? I definitely don''s like spending time on Facebook for me.
I know this sounds like common sense, but how many of us really sit town and recognize a list of our own "good" breaks and "evil" breaks? Seriously...make a list some time. Put it in a place where you may be tempted by evil breaks. Hopefully it will stand as a reminder to you that saving your sanity is all about choosing good breaks and allowing yourself happiness.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sanity-Saving Saturday: Go to the Gym

Welcome back, readers, to the second post in my Sanity-Saving Saturday series. If you missed the first post, you can find it here.

When things get overwhelming, we'll often ignore our long-term goals and focus on short-term problems. We'll get so caught up in the stress of the moment that we forget what's truely important to us.

Of the highest importance, of course, is taking care of yourself! You need to allow for breaks, even when things get stressful. My favorite break (and most sanity-saving solution!) is to go to the gym.

I don't usually do regular workouts. In fact, I hardly ever make it to the gym. But every time I go when I'm stressed (or even not stressed), I walk out feeling 100% better. In that hour I spent at the gym, I'm aware I could have been working on my assignments, cleaning house, putting some overtime in at work on a project, or other busy projects.

Going to the gym allows me to clear my head and focus on the big picture. I'm able to prioritize my projects or, if I'd rather, just zone out and actually enjoy a TV show or some music. By the time I get back to my apartment, I know just what I need to focus on or how I what I'll be writing my next grad school paper on.

Trust me, this works. Invest a little bit of time at the gym, especially when you're overwhelmed. Every little bit of sanity-saving counts! :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review: Are you there, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea

Hello again, readers!

In August, I read Are you there, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler. I'll be honest with you: I've never watched Chelsea's show or read any of her other works. I wanted to start with her novels to develop my full opinion of her. I know some people love her and some despise her. I may not judge a book by its cover, but I will judge a comedian by their book.

This was the book I decided to start with to form that opinion. Here's the summary, courtesy of Goodreads:

When Chelsea Handler needs to get a few things off her chest, she appeals to a higher power - vodka. You would too if you found out that your boyfriend was having an affair with a Peekapoo or if you had to pretend to be honeymooning with your father in order to upgrade to first class. Welcome to Chelsea's world - a place where absurdity reigns supreme and a quick wit is the best line of defense.
In this hilarious, deliciously skewed collection, Chelsea mines her past for stories about her family, relationships, and career that are at once singular and ridiculous. Whether she's convincing her third-grade class that she has been tapped to play Goldie Hawn's daughter in the sequel to Private Benjamin, deciding to be more egalitarian by dating a redhead, or looking out for a foulmouthed, rum-swilling little person who looks just like her... only smaller, Chelsea has a knack for getting herself into the most outrageous situations.
Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea showcases the candor and irresistible turns of phrase that have made her one of the freshest voices in comedy today.

I found this novel to be nothing more than mediocre. I rarely chuckled, and never found myself actually laughing out loud. Chelsea's past exploits were more horrifying than entertaining. My recommendation? Read only if you already love Chelsea.

My book stats:
Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 264
2012 Reading Goal: 14,406

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Audiobook Review: Guilty Wives by James Patterson

A good audiobook is one that you obsess over, both while you're listening to it and when you're not. As my readers know, I listen to audiobooks all the time while driving on my many trips. One of my favorite authors to listen to is James Patterson; his storylines are so addicting that I get engrossed in the book until it's over! And let's face it: one of the worst things to happen is a boring audiobook when you're driving an unscenic route. I start to get sleepy when that happens!

This audiobook was no different. Here's the summary of James Patterson's Guilty Wives, courtesy of Goodreads:
No husbands allowed
Only minutes after Abbie Elliot and her three best friends step off of a private helicopter, they enter the most luxurious, sumptuous, sensually pampering hotel they have ever been to. Their lavish presidential suite overlooks Monte Carlo, and they surrender: to the sun and pool, to the sashimi and sake, to the Bruno Paillard champagne. For four days they're free to live someone else's life. As the weekend moves into pulsating discos, high-stakes casinos, and beyond, Abbie is transported to the greatest pleasure and release she has ever known.

What happened last night?

In the morning's harsh light, Abbie awakens on a yacht, surrounded by police. Something awful has happened--something impossible, unthinkable. Abbie, Winnie, Serena, and Bryah are arrested and accused of the foulest crime imaginable. And now the vacation of a lifetime becomes the fight of a lifetime--for survival. GUILTY WIVES is the ultimate indulgence, the kind of nonstop joy-ride of excess, friendship, betrayal, and danger that only James Patterson can create.

The beginning of this book was a little hard to get into, but just a few short chapters in, I was hooked.  Unlike most of Patterson's novels, this is an international thriller, taking place in France. Abbie, the main character, and her three best friends are accused of murdering the president of France. They are thrown into jail and perceived to be terrorists--all the while, they are struggling to prove their innocence. Deals are cut and prison abuse occurs. All in all, it's an addicting, exciting thriller.

I highly recommend this book. I gave it 5/5 stars.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sanity-Saving Saturday: Maximize your Caffeinated Productivity

Hi readers!

Those of you who watched my most recent Sunday Post vlog are aware of my new meme, "Sanity-Saving Saturdays". For those of you who haven't watched the vlog, here's what this is about:

In the fall, I travel for about 11 weeks from Sunday or Monday until Thursday. Needless to say, I tend to go a little insane. I've got some tips that help to keep me a little more on the sane side, so I thought I'd share them with you, since we're all pretty busy. This meme will run every Saturday for the weeks I'm on the road. Please feel free to join in, too, if you'd like.

Today's Topic:  
Maximize your Caffeinated Productivity

It's no secret to you all that I'm obsessed with coffee. Aside from loving the taste, there's another reason: I get a productivity high. With coffee, I get a superwoman boost for five hours that I wouldn't have gotten without coffee.

The trick: Whatever caffeinated beverage you enjoy, time your consumption of it to when you're able to work. For example, if you are watching your children's soccer games until 2 pm and can't do anything on your to-do list, delay having your caffeine until closer to 2 pm. If you had your caffeinated beverage at 8 am and don't have free time for your to-do list until 2, you're going to be on a caffeine crash by the time you're able to accomplish anything. This leads to watching TV for hours on end, taking a nap, or other less-productive tasks. By strategically consuming your caffeine, you're able to accomplish more when you have the availability to do so.

I have discovered that I work best in the mornings. Once 2:00 hits, I'm practically worthless--caffeine or no caffeine. Therefore, I try to have my coffee as early as possible. At work, I schedule meetings in the afternoon if I can, since I won't get much paperwork done in the afternoons anyway. I set aside at least one hour every morning at work to work on the to-do list, bit-by-bit. This is often at the beginning of my caffeine high, which doesn't end until around 2:00. By then, much of the to-do list has been taken care of.

Even on weekends, I consume my coffee the moment I get up. I spend this time doing homework for Graduate school, blogging, or cleaning the apartment. While I would much rather spend my mornings lazily reading and lounging around, I reserve that for my afternoons, when I'm off my caffeine high.

'ello, love...

I hope this helps you, readers, in saving your sanity. It seems to get harder and harder to do so as the years go on...

What are your Sanity-Saving Saturday tips?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Book Review: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Hi everyone!

I'm sorry again about my inconsistent postings. My grad school class this first 8-weeks is extremely intensive and I'm preparing for my travel season (I leave tomorrow!), so unfortunately my blog has taken the back burner.

As you guys may remember, I did a significant amount of traveling in July. I did run into quite a few flight issues, too. On my trip to Cleveland, I was not supposed to have much layover time. Because of that, I only brought one book along (The Glass Castle), which was relatively short. My first flight ended up being delayed 20 minutes; this caused me to miss my connecting flight. I wasn't able to get on another flight until 4 hours later. Within that time period, I finished the book I had brought along, only to discover my iPad battery was dying--and I packed the charger in my checked baggage! I decided instead to purchase a book.

This book ended up being a mass-market paperback copy of Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven. Between the layover on the way to Cleveland and the delay on the way from Cleveland, I finished the book on the flight back to North Dakota.

Here's a summary of Safe Haven, courtesy of Goodreads:
When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

Although a semi-predictable book (as with all of Nicholas Sparks' novels), I really enjoyed the storyline. I will admit that Katie did not begin as my favorite of Sparks' leading females, I found myself drawn to her and felt a significant amount of compassion and empathy for her situation. Alex was, of course, the perfect "knight in shining armor", but I loved that Sparks gave Alex children in this story.

Ultimately, I would encourage you to read this, especially for those of you who, like me, will read every Nicholas Sparks book at some point in time!

This is where this book put me in my reading goal:
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
Rating: 4/5          
Pages: 382           
Page Goal: 14,142/15,00

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Sunday Post #5

Good morning, readers!

I hope you're all enjoying your 3-day weekend! Are you ready for my 5th Sunday Post?

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and is an opportunity for bloggers to share the books they've received. I participate in The Sunday Post once a month as a vlog.
This week's Sunday Post video is a little different than normal...

...because I only got one book in all of August!

The book I received was James Patterson's The 9th Judgement, which is a part of his Women's Murder Club series.

Hopefully I'll have more books to showcase next month. In the meantime, have a lovely weekend! :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Highlights: August 2012

Ack! I can't believe it's already September!!! Here's what I was busy with throughout August:

This month I read the following:
August 2012
Are you there, Vodka? It's me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 264           Page Goal: 14,406/15,000
Play Dirty by Sandra Brown
Rating: 4/5          Pages: 404           Page Goal: 14,810/15,000
Along Came a Spider by James Patterson
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 449           Page Goal: 15,259/15,000
The Wedding Girl by Madeline Wickham
Rating: 3/5          Pages: 327           Page Goal: 15,586/15,000

These books total 1,444 pages for the month, which surprises me, considering how busy I was in August!

However, I haven't posted reviews for any of these books. Whoops! Hoping to get around to that soon...

This first 8-week class is pretty intensive, so I'm working really hard to just keep my head above ground right now. I'm sure it will get better as it goes, and I'm lucky it's a subject I'm interested in.

Whoopsies! I haven't touched my crafts in months! I often bring my crocheting on the road with me, though, so that I have something to do at night when I (try) to relax. Now that I have schoolwork, though, I feel like I may not get around to my crafts for quite some time...

I finally had a month where I didn't travel one bit. It was lovely, but trust me--I'll be making up for it pretty soon!

Our chest freezer broke down earlier this month, and it's been such a hassle for us to get it serviced. We found out yesterday that it's "non-repairable" (literally--the inspector wrote that in Sharpie on our freezer!) So, we're struggling a lot with Sears right now to get a replacement before all our food spoils :(

I survived August, but I'm not sure I'll be as lucky with September! I will be attending College Fairs and doing High School Visits (usually visiting around 72 high schools total) throughout the next few months.


This is me being a creature from the Black Lagoon...
During my lectures for class, I like to pretend I'm at a
spa. Don't judge.

So, readers, what were your August 2012 highlights?