My Summer 2016 Reading List

Hello! Summer is officially here and you know what that means right? SUMMER READING! Okay, yes, summer also means deliciously hot days on the beach, barbecuing it up with family and friends, and eating lots of ice cream. But let’s be honest, summer also means that the days are longer, which in my book (ha!) means that there is a LOT more time to read! 

To compile my own summer reading list, I drew titles from my own long “to-read” list as well as book club lists at the local library***.  Enjoy!

  1. imgres-1.jpgThe House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

Surprisingly enough, my interest in this book was sparked by a Netflix veg sash back a few months ago.  After perusing through about a million movies, this particular title caught my eye, and when I saw that it starred my girl, Meryl Streep, circa 1993, I was in.  Set in South America, the film/book tells the story of a young rancher, Esteban, and his psychic wife, Clara.   While I remember finding the movie a little odd (sorry Meryl), I was intrigued enough by the plot to give the book version a try.  I mean, books are ALWAYS better then their film adaptations, so I’m really hoping to enjoy this one!

2. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquezimgres-3.jpg

I am so so looking forward to diving into this book.  It tells the story of the Rivera family, who move to the United States from Mexico to seek care for their teenaged daughter, Maribel, after she suffers a terrible accident. 

3. The Children Act by Ian McEwan

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I found this title on last year’s book club list at my local library, and the title drew me in.  This novel follows Fiona Maye, a successful High Court Judge who throws herself into a complex case after being left by her husband. 

4. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marraimgres-5

This novel is my book club’s selection for July, and I am so looking forward to reading it.  Set in Chechnya, a federal subject of Russia, eight-year-old Havaa bears witness to the kidnapping of her father and the burning of her home at the hands of Russian soldiers.  Havaa’s neighbor, Akhmed, discovers the girl and brings her to an abandoned hospital in the hope that they can seek shelter there.  However the one remaining doctor in the hospital, Sonja Rabina, is not pleased at the prospect of two additional people to care for.  I’m anticipating crying a lot while reading this, basically.

5. #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amorusoimgres-6

While I love a good novel, I’m trying to be better about incorporating more nonfiction into my reading, keeping my brain fresh and whatnot.  Anyway, this kickass sounding book, written by the founder and CEO of Nasty Gal, gives young women practical, honest, and meaningful advice about finding a passion and doing good work.  A sneak peek of said advice reads, “Don’t ever grow up. Don’t become a bore. Don’t let The Man get to you. OK? Cool. Then let’s do this.” I’m in love already.

6. Looking For Alaska by John Green41r-sKjJ61L

Seeing as I am a brand new English teacher, I thought it would be fun to include a young adult novel on the list.  I loved and hated ( I cry REALLY easily) The Fault in Our Stars, and I’m looking forward to checking out another work by Green.  This one focus on Pudge, a young man who meets the mesmerizing Alaska Young when he enrolls at Culver Creek Boarding School.  Angsty teen romance? Stay tuned.

7. Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Letheimgres-8

This American novel spans three generations to tell the story of Rose Zimmer and her daughter, Miriam.  Both women are passionate activists who wield particular power over the men in their lives.  I am extremely intrigued by this novel, and am deeply curious to see how it reflects and remarks upon our culture.

8. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ngimgres-9

This book has been on my list for awhile now, and a recent conversation with a friend about it inspired me to add it here.  When the daughter of Chinese American family turns up dead in a nearby lake, chaos ensues.  My friend, while as of this writing has not finished this book, is enjoying it so far, and I trust her literary opinions greatly!  I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this one either…I mean, who can pass up a good murder mystery?

imgres9. Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons

This book was first recommended to me by my mentor teacher during my student teaching practicum.  While I never got around to reading the copy she kindly lent me, I am deeply interested in this book and want to tackle it this summer.  As both a woman and a teacher (not to mention possible future mother), I hope to gain some insight as to why girls exhibit infamous “mean girl” bullying behavior, as well as learn how we as a society can help break this pattern for our girls. 

10. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel Brownimgres-2

Another work of nonfiction, this book was first mentioned to me by T’s mother if memory serves me correctly.  This gorgeous sounding work tells the story of an American rowing team who defied staggering odds in the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin.  While I don’t know much else about this book, it comes highly recommended, and I can’t wait to dive in myself!

Have you read any of these titles? What did you think? What are you all reading? I’d love to hear 🙂 Until next time!

*** Please note, all book summaries were fact-checked on GoodReads, and written in my own words.  All book images were taken from Google Image searches.

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Hello, May (and Way of Gray)

I might be a day late, but I still cannot believe that May is already here! I’m still waiting for Mother Nature to bestow sunny days and May flowers on Boston, but the promise of summer creeping ever closer is pulling me through!

Before I introduce my new goal for this month, I need to come clean about my April goal.  To be brief, I flopped.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I had a really hard time remembering to drink water regularly throughout the day, and I found myself often realizing around dinnertime that I’d barely drunk any all day.  Needless to say, I’m a little bummed with myself for being so flaky with my goal; however, this month did help me realize that gallon or not, I do not drink nearly enough water.  Moving forward, I aim to be better about this habit in general, and will reach for it more often then I have.

That being said, I am so excited and READY for my May goal: to work up a sweat a minimum of five days a week.  I’ve been making it a point recently to wake up early a few mornings a week to get a workout in, but this month I want to focus on upping the ante when it comes to physical fitness.  Since my current schedule leaves precious little time for me to get to the gym, I decided to find an alternative workout program that I could do at home with nothing else but myself and a yoga mat.

My mind immediately jumped to Sophie Gray, a personal trainer and nutritionist.  I currently own two of her HIIT programs (which are crazy hard and sadly no longer available on her site), but I decided to check out her page to see if she had any new offerings.  After perusing her site, I decided to purchase her new  Love Yourself* program, which is available via eBook complete with video links to each workout.  The program has a convenient schedule of 4 workouts/wk, which stretch across the span of 3 months.  While the initial week or two look to be on the easier side, the intensity of the sessions increases throughout the program, which I am so looking forward to.  I’ve been a huge fan of Sophie’s HIIT routines in the past, and I’m excited to dive into her new program to see what it has to offer!

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In addition to my four mornings of HIIT, I want to incorporate running, yoga, and weight-lifting workouts into my 5th day each week, mostly to prevent myself from getting too bored.  By the end of this month, I hope to feel stronger, leaner, and more passionate about fitness.  And hey, it wouldn’t hurt to feel more confident in summer clothes, right?

What have you been doing to get your body moving? I’d love to hear 🙂

My Morning Routine

For reasons unknown, I have always loved waking up early in the morning.  There’s something so satisfying about greeting the day when most of the world is still asleep, and knowing that I have a good chunk of time to myself before I leave the apartment.  Over the past few months, I’ve been establishing a morning routine that pushes me to use that extra time to get myself ready to tackle the rest of my day. Full disclaimer:  I don’t have it down to an exact science, and it definitely doesn’t happen every day.  However, on the mornings that I do rise and grind, I’ve noticed that for the rest of the day I’m more productive, have more energy, and feel genuinely much happier.  What’s not to love about that?

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I’ve really been loving this routine, and I do think that the early wake-up call is 100% worth it.  And so, without further ado, here she is:

1) 4:00~4:15 AM: Wake up and drink a glass of water!  I’m always thirsty when I wake up, and I find a cold glass of water perks me right up first thing in the morning.  PS- I KNOW that this is incredibly early, but since I need to be out of the house by 6:30 AM to be at work on time, there’s no other way around this wakeup time if I want a couple hours to myself at the beginning of the day.

2) 4:15-4:20:  Water in hand, I like to head straight to my desk and jot down something that I’m grateful for or looking forward to in my gratitude journal.  This small act takes all of five minutes, and truly helps set a positive tone for the rest of my day.

3) 4:20-4:30: Write my to-do list in my Erin Condren planner.  Even though I often add more items to this list as the day goes on, I feel more prepared to tackle the day if I have a rough roadmap of what I need to accomplish beforehand.

4) 4:30~5:15ish: Sweat session.  Since most of my afternoons are jam packed with class, homework, or errands and chores, if I want to work out, it needs to happen in the morning.  I’ve recently been LOVING this HIIT (high intensity interval training) program from Way of Gray.  I will not lie…they’re hard, but I always feel amazing afterwards.

5) 5:15-6:15: Shower, get dressed, apply makeup, etc.  I try to squeeze in another glass or two of water during this “get ready” time.

6) 6:15-6:30: Make coffee, a green smoothie, pack my lunch, and GO!

What does your morning routine look like? Any tips to make waking up easier? I’d love to hear!

Currently Craving: Home Edition

Hello all! I have some very exciting news; T and I are moving!!! Apartment hunting in Boston is more or less real estate hell, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it took us a good 10+ showings before we finally found our new place, but it was well worth the wait.  We don’t move in until September, but I’m already getting so excited to decorate! I’m going for a relaxed, colorful, and inviting bohemian vibe for the new place, and I’ve already spent longer than I care to admit perusing Wayfair.com for new home decor goodies.  Here are some of my absolute favorites:

I am in love with this colorful canvas.  I would hang it as a statement piece above the sofa in our new living room, or maybe as a ‘headboard’ for our bed.

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pretty canvas

I would use this shelf as a space to house hand towels for guests, a fragrant candle, and a pretty trinket.  Hey, bathrooms should be dressed up too.

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This pintuck pillow from Urban Outfitters looks just plushy enough to actually use on an every day basis, and has that bohemian touch that I’m looking for.  Plus, it comes in a ton of colors which is always a perk!

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To say that I’m obsessed with this rug is an understatement.  I love pretty much everything about it, from its color scheme to its faux distressed pattern. Enough said.  I’d place this in our living room where, juxtaposed with neutral furniture, it could add a pop of color and texture.

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I really like the understated simplicity of this mirror.  True, its silver edges have a funky design embedded in them, but the overall effect is far from overwhelming.  I would prop this mirror up on a table in the entry way of the new apartment.  Paired with a couple of accent bowls and a framed photograph of T and I, this mirror would pull the entire look together.

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silver mirror

 

Last and certainly not least, I am seriously wanting to buy this faux steer head from Wayfair.com.  I would NEVER purchase a real skull to hang on my wall, but despite my aversion to taxidermy, I cannot help but love the desert vibe that this decoration brings to a room.  This fake skull is my solution: all of the style with none of the animal cruelty!

What pieces do you have in your home that you love? Working on a new project? A move? I’d love to hear- until next time!

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Hello, April

Happy 1st Day of April (and April Fool’s Day!)  I celebrated by playing a prank on my poor 6th graders by telling them they had to finish the novel that we’re reading by Tuesday morning! Tame, I know, but I got the better of them, and once I revealed that I was joking they all got a pretty good laugh out of it, so that’s a win- right?

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Anyway, on to the real reason for this post, which is my goal updates!  For New Year’s I vowed to set mini-goals for myself each month to keep myself honest on the whole resolution thing, and it’s been going pretty well so far!  Last month, I resolved to write in a daily gratitude journal…and I have to say its been amazing.  I worked writing in my journal into my morning routine, and I can genuinely say that it had a hugely positive effect on my everyday mood.  I think it’s important to acknowledge moments in your life, big and small, that bring you joy because, honestly, what’s the point if you don’t? I highly recommend expressing gratitude for the positive things that happen to you, or even lessons you learn after something negative, in written form.  It’s a wonderful stress-reliever and mood lifter, and it leaves a record for you to refer back to on the days where it feels harder to see the bright side.  I whole-heartedly plan on continuing this ritual every morning.

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With March’s goal conquered, I’m ready to tackle my April aim.  Since my last few goals (check them out here and here) focused on my mind and spirit, I wanted to switch gears and focus on something that would give my body a little TLC.  After thinking, a lot, I decided that my April goal will be…..drinking 1 gallon of water per day.  With this goal, I hope to make myself be more mindful of my drinks throughout the day, since right now my main source of fluid is coffee (I know.) I have not been drinking nearly enough water, and my aim is to establish a much healthier habit about consuming it regularly throughout the day.  I wouldn’t hate getting a flawless complexion in the deal either.

Until next time…wish me luck!

Hello, February

Hello! I cannot BELIEVE that February is already here!  Well, it will be tomorrow.  January seemed to fly by, and it brought me so much change (in the best way).  I said good-bye to the classroom (and the kids) that I’ve called home for the past two and a half years to begin my student teaching practicum, dove into my final semester of graduate school, and (thankfully) completed my mini- January goal!  I can happily report that I stuck to a 100% vegan diet this month, with no plans to stop.  I also worked really hard at incorporating a solid exercise routine into my daily life: sometimes this worked, and sometimes it did not.  For each week of this month, I exercised at least three times, but I find that I’m not entirely thrilled with that.  After reflecting, I know I need (and want) to incorporate more exercise into my weeks.  But a start is a start, and I’m happy to say that I’m ending the first month of 2016 feeling more or less fulfilled (even if already a bit stressed).

Which brings me to my mini- February goal: to meditate for at least ten minutes every single day.  I recently downloaded the Breathe app onto my iPhone, and it’s safe to say that I’m obsessed with it.  You can search for guided mediations based on your mood, browse through a list, and even track your progress.  I’m aiming to use this app to help guide me through short mediations once or twice a day in the hope that my stress levels will go down, my overall daily moods will go up, and my concentration and mindfulness will become stronger.

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{image credit and app info: here}

I will keep you posted on how I do with this one.  How are your resolutions going?  Make any changes? I’d love to hear all about it!

Work It Out

Hey all!  So, we’re almost half-way through January, and I’ve been working really hard at my January goals of going 100% vegan and exercising five times per week.  All was going swimmingly…until today.
 
I just don’t know what happened.  I felt fine all day at work, and was actually looking forward to the gym and a good, lengthy sweat session.  However, on my walk there, my stomach began to have really intense, sharp pains.  Not wanting to give up my gym session, I tried to brush off the pain and continued on my way.  I changed, put my hair up, and popped myself onto a cardio machine with the hope that the pain was just a cramp that would wear off.  Well, needless to say, it didn’t, and I had to quit after five minutes.
 
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At first, I was really down on myself for skipping out on a gym session.  I felt disappointed, frustrated, annoyed, and even angry at myself for cutting my workout way short, and beat myself up over it on my home.  Then, I realized…I was being a mean girl to myself.  Rather than being gentle with myself and taking pride in the fact that I had listened to my body and done the right thing by stopping my workout, I was swept up in a whirlwind of hateful self-talk.  Crazy, right? Uhhh, yeah.  Extremely crazy.
Once I had realized that these thoughts were permeating my brain, I immediately shut them down.  If I’m going to make 2016 the year that I fell in love with myself, then I wasn’t off to a very good start with this type of thought process.  So, as tempting as it was to continue beating myself up over cutting a workout short, I made the choice to treat myself kindly instead.  I got home, took a warm shower, brewed some tea, and indulged in some ‘Vanderpump Rules.’  My body clearly needed a break, and in giving it one, I’ll be that much more prepared to kick ass tomorrow.  I did not quit on my goals today; I merely noticed what my body was screaming out to me and acted accordingly.  
 
While I know this is a small and insignificant (in a “grand scheme of things” sort of way) moment, it was a huge victory for me.  I made the conscious choice to love myself, listen to what I needed, and encourage myself that tomorrow I’ll be stronger than ever.