Saturday, January 9, 2016

christmas break 2015

This year we went to Palm Springs with Preston's family for Christmas. We left on the 20th and stayed until the 30th. I've been to Palm Springs two other times and both times it was hot hot hot but this year was probably the coldest I've ever been. We spent our days working out, playing tennis, reading by the pool and enjoying the hikes that the area had to offer.

On the 20th we got into Ontario pretty early and drove to Idyllwild where we fell in love with the quaint ski town. We hiked Tahquitz Peak and marveled at the fact that it actually felt like winter in some parts of the United States. (70 degrees when we left Dallas bleh). I froze my little toes off and complained about it, but was happy to have experienced such a picturesque hike on our first day.

On Christmas Eve we did another wintery hike in the San Jacinto Wilderness with the rest of the family. This one had incredible views at the end and we braved the big rocks to experience the whole view. 
On Boxing Day we went to Joshua Tree National Park. I was most looking forward to this day because I had seen so many incredible pictures of Joshua Tree on Instagram and blogs. It was so windy and cold at Joshua Tree it hurt but we managed to keep warm by scampering up and down the rocks. 
Like I said, in between our nature hikes we lived the country club life so don't think that we were super tough explorers the whole time. Christmas Day we got to talk to Nic which was a highlight. That kid is a hoot and hasn't changed, but has also changed a lot if that makes sense. For example he still asked about Kendrick Lamar's newest album, but he has also grown so much in the gospel and shared a lot of cool stories about investigators and his area. 
We had a fun (not fun) adventure leaving Palm Springs. Our flight was delayed an hour and on the way to the airport we got a notification that it was no longer delayed. IS THAT ALLOWED? So we missed our flight to Dallas on the 29th, rebooked a flight from LAX the next morning and finally made it home the night of the 30th.

I spent New Year's Eve reading one of my new favorite books of all time (A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, separate review in the works!!) until 2 AM. New Year's came and went and now we're back to work. 2016 has some big changes in store and I can't wait for it! Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year's. Happy 2016!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 in books


I read 40 books in 2015 and ranked them from the worst to the best, in my opinion.

40. Diary of an Oxygen Thief- Anonymous The author should remain anonymous because this should really be called Diary of a Douche Bag. I think the most disappointing part about this book was how hard I looked for it and how much I anticipated it.

39. Send in the Idiots- Kamran Nazeer Profiles of individuals with varying forms of autism. Sounded interesting but I can sum this entire book into one sentence-- There are varying degrees of autism ranging from very high functioning to very low functioning and it affects individuals' lives in many different ways. The end.

38. After Dark- Haruki Murakami The most boring Murakami I've ever read. Don't let this stop you from reading his other wonderful works (1Q84 and Norwegian Wood!!)

37. The Girl on the Train- Paula Hawkins This was supposed to be the Gone Girl of 2015 and it wasn't. The main character was awful and it was predictable and anticlimactic.

36. Department of Speculation- Jenny Offill Like a bad collection of Tumblr quotes.

35. The Girl in the Spider's Web- David Lagercrantz The latest Millennium novel and a serious disappointment. Lisbeth was not the same badass Lisbeth I had grown to love from Millenniums 1-3 and the story dragged on.

34. Nervous System: Or Losing My Mind in Literature- Jan Lars Jensen This is about an author's nervous breakdown in anticipation of an upcoming book publication. It was funny at times, but a little dull. I remember putting it down for several days and almost forgetting about it.

33. Liars Poker- Michael Lewis My attempt to understand investment banking. Spoiler alert: I still don't get it.

32. Slouching Towards Bethlehem- Joan Didion I was inspired to read this after reading Goodbye to All That, a collection of essays about New York City. I thought this would be more about New York City, but most of the stories were about Joan's life in other parts of the country and then the one essay about New York was a letdown.

31. Let the Great World Spin- Colum McCan One of those books where the first 100 pages I was like, what is this about? But McCan weaves seemingly unrelated stories together in a poetic way.

30. The World's Strongest Librarian- Josh Hanagarne Uplifting memoir about a man diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome and his struggle to live with the disease and how he learns to cope with it. Funnier if you're Mormon.

29. Brain on Fire- Susannah Calahan The story, not the writing is what is incredible about this book. Fascinating medical memoir about a rare brain disorder. Susannah does a great job piecing together her own personal accounts with that of her doctors and parents to tell the story of her encounter with Anti-NMDA Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis.

28. Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas- Chuck Klosterman Great collection of pop culture essays ranging from Britney Spears to McDonald's to Radiohead. A little dated, but fun to look back on the pop culture phenomenons of the early 2000's.

27. The Girl Who Played With Fire- Stieg Larsson I re-read the last two Millennium books in preparation for the new one released this year. I loved this series and I love Lisbeth Salander.

27. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest- Stieg Larsson ^^

25. All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr Ok everyone I know who read this absolutely loved this book and I'm wondering if maybe I missed something? It was well-written and a beautiful story but felt kind of juvenile to me? I felt like I was reading Number the Stars, as in I would have loved this book a lot more if I was younger but reading it now I was underwhelmed. Granted, it did win the Pulitzer and really is a lovely story of friendship, but not at all the life-changing novel I was expecting.

24. Never Say Goodbye- Sari Botten This is the sequel to Goodbye to All That which I promise was great, because I still haven't listed it. It's a collection of writers', actors', artists' etc. essays on New York City and mostly how they are in love with the city and can never leave.

23. Love: Ten Poems- Pablo Neruda Not my favorite collection of Neruda poems, but still gorgeous prose.

22. House of God- Samuel Shem Do not read if your spouse is currently in medical school. This is like the Real World: Hospitals in America. It's the dark side of medicine and I'm honestly convinced was the actual inspiration for Grey's Anatomy. Lots of sex, lots of death and lots of douche-y doctors. But really darkly funny.

21. Toms River- Dan Fagin Very interesting read about the effects of a chemical dye plant in Toms River, New Jersey to the citizens of the small town. Fagin weaves a tale of secrecy, greed and the resiliency of the human spirit.

20. This is Where I Leave You- Jonathan Tropper Still haven't seen the movie, but I heard the book is better because you get more of the dark humor. Really funny. This family is a hot mess.

19. The Innovators- Walter Isaacson Walter Isaacson is a fantastic biographer and this is another great nonfiction read about the different discoveries and inventions which have shaped the technology we enjoy today.

18. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair- Pablo Neruda These are the words you secretly (or not so secretly) wish your significant other would say to/write about you.

17. Einstein- Walter Isaacson This was another excellent biography and made me appreciate the genius who was Albert Einstein. He also includes great anecdotes from his wives, children and colleagues which made you remember he was also human.

16. Goodbye to All That- Sari Botten I haven't been to many cities so I always feel silly saying New York is my favorite, but it truly is. It always seems so magical and unlike any place I've been. There is a feeling of giddiness and wonder every time I get off the train at Penn Station. This book put to words that feeling and made me ache for New York City and empathize with those who had to go back.

15. The Diviners- Margaret Laurence I remember I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Starts off describing the lives of Canadian hicks but focuses on the life of one specific hick named Morag whose life ends up being a lot more interesting than her rural hometown. Morag is a witty and strong female character and her inner monologues always made me giggle.

14. Still Alice- Lisa Genova Heartbreaking memoir about the effects of Alzheimer's disease on a highly successful academic and how she did her best to battle the disease. I cried. The movie is also great.

13. Ordinary People- Judith Guest Depression is something I have always struggled to understand. This book is an excellent portrait of the disease and its effects on those who suffer from it as well as their loved ones. It doesn't try to glamorize the it and is simply told, but profound.

12. Oblivion- David Foster Wallace Excellent collection of short stories from the master himself. My favorite was Good Old Neon, but all of them had a stroke of brilliance, or several.

11. The Martian- Andy Weir The kind of science fiction I could actually get into. Funny and apparently scientifically accurate. My favorite part of this book was the main character's final reflection on the human race and its ability to come together in the face of disaster.

10. The Girls Who Went Away- Ann Fessler Probably the biggest surprise of 2015. I grabbed this book haphazardly before a trip. It was one of those books I found at Goodwill for $1 and thought, eh that looks kind of cool. This is the story of the hundreds of young women who surrendered their children to adoption in the time before abortion was legalized in the United States. There were so many different accounts and the most impactful thing I learned was the simple fact that not all women who give up children do it out of choice, but many times necessity and it is a heartbreaking and awful process to give up a child you don't want give up.

9. The Emperor of All Maladies- Siddhartha Mukherjee Probably the most complete biography of cancer that exists. This was another re-read and I'm glad I took the time to do so. So informative and includes so many different aspects of cancer that you don't even think about.

8. White Oleander- Janet Fitch Gorgeous dark haunting prose. The story of one girl's journey through the foster care system and growing up without her mother/best friend. I flew through this one.

7. The Empathy Exams- Leslie Jamison Or How to Feel Feelings. A collection of unrelated topics and how in each situation we can express or feel empathy in some way.

6. My Brilliant Friend- Elena Ferrante I started this series and have tied the first three for sixth place, although I did like 1 and 2 more than 3. The Neapolitan Novels tell the story of Lila and Elena, two girls growing up in rural Naples. There are so many things I loved about these books-- Lila and Elena's tumultuous and often contradicting relationship, Ferrante's simple but brutally honest prose and feeling like I was in Naples and watching the events of Lila and Elena's lives unfold. Friendship, love, betrayal-- I like to think of them as beautifully written and more intellectually stimulating soap operas. I'm saving the finale for 2016.

6. The Story of a New Name- Elena Ferrante ^

6. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay- Elena Ferrante ^^

3. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do- David Foster Wallace My favorite collection of essays I've ever read. DFW is so smart. I've said it so many times, but he has the uncanny ability to put into words exactly what I've thought about so many things from the mundane to wildly exciting to simply bizarre. After reading this book, I couldn't help but feel sad that we lost such a gifted writer. What kinds of things would he have to say about our self-absorbed generation? What would he think about hover boards, fashion blogs or Instagram? My heart breaks thinking of the possibilities.

2. The Stranger Manual- Catie Rosemurgy A reminder of why I love poetry. I admire/envy the ability people have to string together words that make me feel joy/sadness/pain/adoration so acutely, it's as if they personally defined certain experiences for me, like they wrote a dictionary according to me and my life experiences. That's how I felt when I read this book. I have to share my favorite lines with you so you can get a glimpse of what I'm saying:

Maybe one body is simply insufficient.
So they change their minds and decide 
to stand by one another's side for years.
They bring flowers and carpet and children
into the act. They refuse to move, ever.
They act as if they've found the only hospitable
spot on earth. I love it when they do that.

1. A Little Life- Hanya Yanagihara Oh my word. I started this book on December 30 and finished January 1 and truly felt I saved the best book of the year for last. I stayed up late reading this (like 2 AM late), which is a big statement for me because I like to be in bed by 10:30. It consumed my thoughts when I wasn't reading it and I quickly rushed through things I needed to do so I could sit and read it. I want everyone to read this, but it is not for everyone. There are pages which are so horrifying and sickening, I had trouble finishing. This book is about a group of four friends, but particularly one member of the group named Jude. It follows their lives from their early twenties through careers, relationships, families and for some of them, death. This is a book about friendship, heartbreak, loss, love, kindness, evil, shame and pretty much every emotion in existence. It is graphic, disturbing and dark, which is why I shy away from recommending it heartily to everyone. In contrast to those dark passages, there are pages that made me weep because of the beauty of pure, honest, human kindness and love. I can't stop thinking about this book and the characters and am suffering from a severe book hangover. I don't want to start a new book because I want to leave the memories and thoughts of this one fresh in my mind a little longer. Like I said, it's not for everyone, but if you do decide to read it, please let me know what you think and let me talk about it again with you.

Thank you for reading with me. I had so much fun creating this list last year, I was so excited to do it again for 2015. Please share your favorites with me as well since I'm always looking for new titles and be my friend on Goodreads! It's a great place to share titles and read friends' reviews about books. Happy new year and happy reading!

Friday, January 1, 2016

top 20 songs of 2015

 20. The Ghosts of Beverly Drive- Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab is one of my favorite bands of all time and "Kintsugi" was good. It wasn't "Plans" or "Transatlanticism" but nothing will ever be. This was my favorite song off the album.

19. Mine (Michael Keenan Remix)- Phoebe Ryan feat. Skizzy Mars
I am a sucker for breathy female vocals and synth featuring rap verses.

18. This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)- Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell 
When I first heard of this collab I became giddy at the possibilities. The album itself was unremarkable, but I loved this sweet little ballad and anything Sam Beam touches.

17. Clean- Ryan Adams
Like most of the 15 year old girls stoked for this album, I only heard a few things here and there from Ryan Adams, but I did know he had a super loyal fan base of people whose music tastes I share. I think Ryan's version of "Clean" demonstrated how Taylor Swift is a true lyricist. I loved it when Taylor did it and loved it even more when Ryan did.

16. When We Were Young- Adele
If Adele didn't make your list this year, do you live under a rock? She's back and still has that mind-numbingly perfect voice that orchestrated numerous solo performances in my car.

15. Kamikaze- MØ
Kinda ethnic sounding but I am at a loss for which ethnicity. This song is way cute and happy.

14. Only One- Kanye West feat. Paul McCartney
Remember when this came out and people were like, "who's Paul, he's pretty good." This song is so tender and sweet and so far from everything Yeezus and I liked seeing that different side of Kanye. Technically it was dropped NYE 2014 but that's pretty close to 2015 so I'm including it.

13. Show Me the Way- Penguin Prison
It's just so good and danceable.

12. Unknown Song- Milky Chance feat. Paulina Eisenberg
When I first heard this song, and still every time I hear it, I don't know what to think. I try finding a comparison and can't but just know that I love its laidback feel.

11. Until You Were Gone- The Chain Smokers & Tritonal feat. Emily Warren
Pop dance happy beats.

10. Electric Love- BØRNS
Lyrics sweet like candy and just a feel good jam.

9. Where Are Ü Now- Skrillex, Diplo & Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber had one of my favorite albums of the year. I think this was the first preview of the album and after my first listen, I knew I beliebed.

8. John My Beloved- Sufjan Stevens
Such a gorgeous album. I got to see him perform this live and I silently wept during its entirety.

7. Yeah You- Freedom Fry
This is the cutest song on my list I think because I want to have a wedding reception just to use this as the first dance song.

6. Gibraltar- Beirut
I remember first hearing this and smiling while thinking, "I just love Beirut."

5. Sorry- Justin Bieber
Sorry that Biebs made my list twice but this song is dope and so is the music video.

4. California- Grimes
"Art Angels" was my favorite album of 2015. Grimes is too freaking cute and weird not to love and I couldn't decide between this song and the next one so I put them both because they are both that good to me. This is the stuff of pop dreams.

4. Flesh Without Blood- Grimes
^^

2. FourFiveSeconds- Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney
I still don't know what 'wiling' is but I had this on repeat for a month when it came out. As soon as RiRi hits that first note, I lose it.

1. Tempted- Giorgio Moroder feat. Matthew Koma
There is something about this easily missed disco gem from Giorgio Moroder's "Deja Vu" album that instantly puts me in a good mood and has me singing shamelessly along.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

be of good cheer

Before I bombard your feeds with my end-of-the-year lists, I wanted to do a quick little update on my second favorite month of the year. I'm still missing these trips and people like crazy, so I'm happy to reminisce and share their goodness with you here.

On November 13 we flew to what's become one of our favorite places in the world- beautiful Utah, for the wedding of Callan Graham and Holly Brinkerhoff. Callan and Holly were married on November 14 at the lovely Payson Utah Temple. Payson Temple is so gorgeous!! And it's always such a joy to witness two friends come together for eternity. We partied in Provo that evening with a Slab buffet, so you could say it was the best wedding reception I've ever attended. Congrats Callan and Holly, you guys are perf.
On Sunday we brunched at Sundance because during my entire 4 years in Provo, I never made the trip. Then Molly and I bravely agreed to hike Lake Blanche with Grady and Preston. It was slippery and cold, but just the prettiest sight to see. Utah truly is one of the most beautiful places I've ever lived. I'll say it again, but all you Utah residents are BLESSED.
It's always fun going back to Provo and hitting up our favorite places and discovering new gems. Like I know it's old news to you, but Sodalicious is the bomb and I would've appreciated those 32 oz of goodness during finals week let me tell you.

For Thanksgiving we went to Pennsylvania to spend the holidays with my parents and Drew and Alyanna. Oh my goodness I loved this week!!! I love going home, I'm obsessed with my parents and my mom's cooking, I loved seeing Alyanna and Drew and I loved that we were in PA for Thanksgiving AND my bday. Oh yeah, I turned 24. And Maren and Kaile came to celebrate with me! There are no pics of my besties, but I promise many snuggles and giggles happened. 
On the 28th I decided to extend my bday and Preston took me to New York for the day because is there a more magical place than NYC during the holidays? We went to the Guggenheim and marveled at the architecture and got yelled at multiple times for sneaking pics. 
We walked through Central Park. 
We got cereal milk from Momofuku and Preston has since recreated it for us here in Dallas. It's actually pretty good. 
We stocked up on weird, adorable Japanese goods at Muji. We went to Washington Square Park and at first I was mad cuz it was dark, but the park looked so pretty at night I decided it was ok. We took notes of all the books we need to get at Strand. 
We had dinner at The Smith. And then we went home.

We left early Monday morning and now we're back in Dallas getting ready to leave this Sunday for California to be with Preston's family! Oh what a wonderful time of year it is. I hope you are having the best time with your families and friends and celebrating the real reason for Christmas, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today we had a such a lovely sacrament meeting and I got to sneak out of nursery for an equally lovely Relief Society lesson. I'm always so amazed and touched by the musical talent in our ward and the time and effort everyone puts into lessons. I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

september and october 2015

Can't believe I haven't blogged since August whoops. I guess I a) have a life b) started watching Parenthood c) am too lazy. Probably a nice mix of B and C with a sprinkle of A. Ok so here's what happened in September and October. 

End of September Jen Riding and Jason Lamprecht tied the knot right here in Dallas so not only did we get to see the couple who went on our first date with us get married but all our friends came out here and we got to hang out with them and show them around our city. But back to J-squared. I love this couple. Like I said, they got the ball rolling for Preston and me to start dating by setting up a double date and four years ago this October we went to Bamboo Hut and Yogurtland and now we're here. I've been rooting for this pair since then and they finally, finally sealed the deal. Love you guys!!
Here's us with our little blondie Bakers <3 p="">
First weekend in October we went to Austin and went to Austin City Limits for Day 3 of weekend 1. I learned a few things that weekend like I will probably not go to another music festival again unless I have VIP passes. So the pic above is Years & Years from backstage cuz we had a friend working at ACL and got us some "crew" passes so that was pretty sweet but also spoiled me for the day because I kept looking longingly at the VIPers and wishing I was them during the rest of the shows. But we still had a great time. We saw Daughter, Years & Years, The Decemberists, Of Monsters & Men and THE STROKES and let me tell you I sorta lost my mind during The Strokes because they played mostly old stuff that I remember burning onto CDs in 8th grade and falling in love with. 
October 17th I saw Taylor Swift suuuuper close. Thanks Mommy and Daddy. I literally got those tickets November 2014 and finally finally saw her in October at Cowboys Stadium. It was everything I could have hoped for and she had a great surprise guest (Ellie Goulding) and one of my most anticipated nights of 2015 lived up to the hype. I should also mention I went by myself and made friends with tweens and moms and had to answer the questions "what school do you go to?" and "did you graduate?" a couple times. NBD. That was a great night.
Preston tries to see the good in Texas and scopes out fun outdoor activities. Here is me testing out our new hammock in the Great Trinity Forest of South Dallas, Texas. I need to have a better attitude about Texas' lack of nature, but this was a fun afternoon even if I did complain and grumble all the way there.
70% of the people at our ward trunk-or-treat knew who we were and I consider that a success because a) my anti-crafts self made these costumes b) it was a really short scene from THE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE. We're Kronk and Yzma from the lab, guys. Remember? I originally wanted to be Kronk and Yzma in all their glory aka Preston carry me on his back in giant backpack, but both outfits were a little too sexy and kind of difficult to recreate. 

Ok so now it's November and the best time of the year because Thanksgiving and Christmas are within reach, it's finally cooling down in Dallas and it's my birthday month. Happy November!