Monday, June 29, 2015

Collaboreads: Dragonfly in Amber

Last month (or maybe it was this month, I really can't remember) Amber introduced a wonderful reading collaboration and link up, called Collaboreads, where we as bloggers and book lovers can join together and talk about the books they love. Right up my alley!!

Mr. Thomas and Me

Each month a certain 'criterea' is chosen and at the end of the month we'll review it using the R.E.A.D.S. system created by Amber and Rachel. The criteria this month was that the book chosen needed to be on the NYT best-seller list at the time you started reading. Well, a month ago, I was reading Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon, which is the second installment of the Outlander book series. If you follow me on Instagram (if you don't, what the heck??) then you'll know that I'm going through this series at record speed, for me. I'm currently reading The Fiery Cross, which is the fifth book in the series, so rather than choosing just the one book, I'm kind of going to talk about the series as a whole, because lets be honest, I really can't remember where one book ended and the next began.

You guys. I never, never, thought I'd find another book series I could love as much as I loved Harry Potter. Now, the books and the stories are completely different from each other, and really the only comparison is that its a 7+ installment series where each book is 1000+ pages, but still. So, so good.

A brief synopsys: the series follows Claire Randall, who travels through a standing stone circle (think something like Stonehenge) in Scotland in the year 1947, back to the year 1743, during the historical Jacobite revolution in Scotland. Now, if you're anything like me, the whole "time travel" part of the book may make you a little reluctant to pick it up, thinking it may be some type of weirt sci-fi thriller, but it isn't! I described it to a good friend as a mix between a great historical fiction story and Fifty Shades of Grey. Except only like three shades of gray, because it isn't nearly as raunchy.

Now for the R.E.A.D.S. review - warning there are SPOILERS ahead!

Like I said, the story involves a little bit of time travel, but the way it's written makes it totally believable. I couldn't tear myself away from the story line in it's entirety. Claire is a sassy Sassenach (an "outlander" or "foreigner" to the Scots) and her character is completely relatable with her forward thinking, independent, and slightly stubborn mindset. Her marriage to Jaime starts off as an obligation and a means to save her own neck, but definitely turns in to something more. The second novel focuses on their time in France, attempting to change the course of history by preventing the Jacobite uprising and eventual slaughter at the Battle of Culloden.

As I said, Claire was easily the most relatable character in the series for me. Being what I consider a fairly independent and strong-minded (okay, we'll go ahead and say "stubborn") person myself, I could easily see myself reacting in the same ways as Claire when confronted with some of the practices and ideations of women of the 1700's. As far as plot twists, the biggest twist, to me, was the book starting back in the 1900's. 1967, specifically, with Claire and her 20 year old daughter, Brianna. When it started, I was so angry! What happened to Jamie? Where did this daughter come from? Where is Frank (Claire's first husband, married in the 1930s)? When did she go back through the stones? Was it even real?? But then all those questions were answered (and more) throughout the rest of Dragonfly in Amber.

This book doesn't remind me specifically of any other book or story, but I've read many historical fiction books, being that it's one of my most favorite genres, so this on was no different. I especially liked that it had a somewhat modern theme in addition to the historical fiction part.

I actually did judge this book by it's cover - and not nicely. I am an eReader gal myself, but I actually purchased the hard copy of the first book, because it was staring me in the face on the best seller list in Books-A-Million and I had heard good things. My copy actually has a photo of the TV Series characters on it, but I hadn't watched the series at that time. I generally hate buying those copys, and prefer the original cover art, but I couldn't find it.

Five stars all the way - I would recommend this series to anyone who had the time and drive to read through over eight thousand pages of love story.

So tell me, have you read any of these books? Do you enjoy long novels or the shorter, fast-paced ones? Answer in the comments below!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On trying more new things // How We Wore It

Several weeks ago, I talked some about trying new things and how much I love doing it. From food, to vacations, to work outs, I really really love trying out things I've never got to do before. So when I had the opportunity to be part of a fashion collaboration post, I jumped on it. 

I'm not a fashion blogger, really I'm far far far from being even a little bit of a fashion blogger, but I'm always up for a challenge.

The goal of this collaboration is to take a look created by a "real" fashion blogger, and put our own spin on it, using items that we already own - thus challenging us to use the clothes we already have to try to come up with fun new combinations and looks.

This month, the inspiration comes from Robin Vilate, pictured below.

original post

If you know anything about me, then you'll know that I'm the queen of laid back outfits like the one pictured above, so technically this challenge wasn't exactly challenging as far as choosing an outfit went, but posing for pictures is a whole other story. Not to mention it was raining yesterday, so I couldn't take my pictures in front of a pretty brick wall like I'd imagined. (Maybe if I didn't wait until the last minute to do these things, I wouldn't have been put in such a pickle?)

I chose one of my favorite tops that I purchased recently from Target and a pair of jeans (also from Target) that I've owned nearly two years. Since I don't own any cute camoflage, I went for the next best thing: floral. 

 My favorite part about this top is that it kind of tricks you. From the front, it's just a simple casual grey tank top, but from the back, it's bursting with fun flowers and color. 

I stopped buying and wearing converses in high school, and even though I loved wearing them then, I'm just not into it any more. Probably because I can't stand to wear socks just as much as I can't stand to wear a bra. 

Be sure to check out the other bloggers participating this month:

Brooke at Silver Lining
Deidre at Deidre Emme
Sierra at Sierra's View
Sharlee at My New Line
Laura at Sincerely, Laura
Aubrey at Aubrey Zaruba
Kaycie at Redhead Memories 
Kyla at FordOlogy
Tayler at The Morrell Tale
Emma at Ever Emma
Bonnie at Life of Bon
Rachel at Rachel Sayumi
So tell me, are you more of a comfy/casual kind of gal, or a dress up and glam kind?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I have a hair appointment today

There's this thought that I have... I have it almost every day. It goes something like this: Dang, Kalyn, you haven't touched your blog in a week (two weeks, three weeks)! You should really try to write something today. And I agree with myself, and think, yeah, I really should write something! I've got so many ideas.

And that's about as far as I get.

I'm always telling people how busy my life is, but then when they ask what I'm doing there's not much besides work. I've got so much time in the afternoons to be doing things, but most days I just come home and read (currently reading: The Fiery Cross (Outlander series #5)) and cook dinner and then go to bed. Does that qualify as busy?? On the weekends, I've been picking up some extra shifts and doing things around my house and going to bridal brunches and visiting family. So I think that counts as "busy."

Last week Helene had a fun link up where everyone shared things that the blogging world may not know about them. Well, here I am, fashionably late, to share some things with you all.

//I think I'm one of the few nurses that don't like wearing scrubs. My co-workers that wear business-casual clothes always tell me how jealous they are that I get to wear comfy clothes all day. Maybe its because we're limited to only two colors, and I'm tired of wearing the same things day in and day out, but I want to wear some cute clothes, dang it!

//For the first time ever, I tried some expensive sunglasses (Costas) on over the weekend. I see what all the hype is about. I've always been a $5-pair-from-the-gas-station kind of gal, and they always suited me just fine, but after wearing my husbands new shades, I'm almost considering taking the plunge.

//For some reason, even though its something I've dealt with my entire life, it really bugs me when people don't get my name right. But at the same time I hate correcting people! One of my coworkers called me "Caitlin" for over a year before someone (else) finally told him it was Kalyn. Does anyone else have this problem?

//I don't like iced coffee, the color pink, chocolate, or wearing my hair down. So basically I'm not a girl.

//Every single time I go to get my hair done, I never know what I'm going to do until I get there. I can be planning weeks in advance, looking up hair cuts, colors, and styles, but it never fails that I'm completely undecided until I get there. I've got an appointment this afternoon and still don't know what I'm going to do. I've considered red, which I had two years ago. I've considered blonde, which my husband likes; and I've also considered just continuing to grow the blonde out into a nice "bronde" style. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Growth: Halfway through 2015

In January, I decided that my word/phrase/focus for the year of 2015 would be "growth." I wanted to grow in many ways: spiritually, financially, and physically. Some things cannot be tangibly measured, but I thought I'd do a little update of sorts. 

Our goal this year is to buy a home. To buy a house you need money for a down payment, for closing costs, for repairs, for the inspection, and I could go on and on but basically you need money. We are fortunate enough to rent a home that is not costing us a fortune. We have almost replaced the cash we took from savings to buy my car in December, and for that I couldn't be happier. Our goal was to put away $3000 per month starting in January. We haven't met that goal every month but we've been close. We have a budget (I use that word loosely) that we aim for but we also like to be spontaneous and we don't restrict ourselves when fun opportunities arrive (heck, we bought another car for fun). I'd say we are on track with growing financially! 

I'd say that this is the easiest of the four ways I want to grow. Derek's family is wonderful and I love spending time with them. I can only hope he feels the same about my family. With my mom's diagnosis, I can say that I've even become closer to my own family, something I didn't think would ever be possible. Also, I'm not knocked up yet so we didn't grow in that way, but I'm totally okay with waiting! 

How do you measure spirituality? We haven't found a church to attend regularly but I have become more comfortable with my faith. I pray often, and find myself comforted more and more by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I have worked on sharing the Gospel and talking more openly about my faith with my family and friends - something that wasn't always easy for me. 

This is the part where I try to casually change the subject away from reaching my goals to talking about how much ice cream I've eaten over the past six months. My gym time has drastically decreased since January. I joined a new gym that month and started a new workout routing and was absolutely loving it - I went to a fun class twice a week, I continued weight lifting 3-4 times a week and I would try to swim once or twice a week as well. I'm not sure what happened but at some point I began fizzling out. I find myself making excuses to miss the gym or just flat out not going for no reason at all! I'm unmotivated, not eating well, and it's showing. I seriously need a change! 

All things considered, I think I'm doing fairly well with growing this year, however I do see ways in which I can improve. I need to start focusing daily on growth, rather than it being a passing thought or something just on the back of my mind.

What were your goals for 2015? Have you stuck to them? 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why I Love My Tablet more than Books

If you've never noticed (I don't know why you would) I love to read. I used to could read a book in a whole day. Not just "a  book" but something like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Serously, I'd buy it in the morning and then stay up until the wee hours and finish it in a single day. Ah, to be twelve again.

My love for reading hasn't stopped, but I would say my available time and responsibilities have changed a little, therefore I can't finish a 700+ page book in a day anymore. As I've mentioned numerous times before on this blog, my goal this year is to read 30 books before 2016. I don't remember what number I'm at right now (somewhere around nine?) but I've got a few fun little challenges to help me stay on track (like this one, this one, and this one). You know what else helps me? Reading on my Samsung Nook tablet.

I know, I know, there's nothing that "beats the real thing" but is that really true? Yes sometimes having a real book with real pages in my hand is great, but here are a few reasons why my Nook (or any tablet/e-reader) is better:

Instant Gratification
Say there's a book I want, and I want it really bad. With my Nook tablet, the only thing I need to do is log on to my Barnes & Noble account, find the book, click "buy" and bam - there it is, ready to read. 

One of my favorite parts about my Nook tablet is that it's small. I got the seven inch version and it fits into all my purses, bags, and even a few pockets. I can take it almost anywhere. I say "almost" because I can't take it underwater. I've taken it in the bath but it still makes me a little nervous to do that too.

Multiple Devices
I would have to say that this is, hands down, the number one reason I prefer my Nook tablet over a "real" book. I have the nook app downloaded on my phone, Derek's phone, Derek's tablet, and there's also an online feature where you can log on from an internet browser. This is my favorite because if I find myself unexpectedly in a situation where I'd want to read (i.e. waiting in a doctor's office or a long car ride), but didn't bring my tablet with me, I can easily pull it up on my phone or a computer. 

Screen Backlight
With a regular book, at night I've got to keep my bedside lamp on to read, which in turn keeps my husband up huffing and puffing which in turn disturbs my reading. With my Nook, I can put the screen on dim and it's still bright enough for me to read but not too bright to keep my sleeping beauty husband awake. 

Want bigger text? Done. Want a black background with white words (supposedly better when looking at screens)? Done. Want bigger margins? Done. What I'm saying here is that you get to customize your reading experience to what YOU prefer, rather than being stuck with the "manufactures settings" like you are with a paperback.

Of course I can go on and list more things like how I never lose my page, or my hand doesn't get tired from holding open a thick book when there's only a few pages left (come on, you know that's aggravating) and the fact that I can read it one handed or look up words while I'm reading a book, but I'll just leave it at that.

So tell me, what do you prefer - a tablet/e-reader or the real thing?