3.01.2019

January + February Reads

Happy March!

After what seemed like the longest January ever - thank you alllllll of the snow days - February seemed to speed by and I can't believe it's already March. Making it through February makes it feel like spring is just around the corner and that is so exciting. This morning, we actually heard birds chirping outside the windows, we have tulips in the house, the signs of spring are here!

Anyway, I have been reading a lot this year and thought I'd share a little reading update. In my post recapping the books I read in 2018, I shared that my reading goal for 2019 is 20 books. I'm off to a strong start, having already finished ten books already this year.



The Justice Calling by Bethany Hoang and Kristen Johnson
The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper
Our Little Lies by Sue Watson
The Ex by Alafair Burke
Educated by Tara Westover
The First Family by Michael Palmer
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I've really enjoyed most of these books. It's been a good mix of nonfiction and fiction. Of everything I've read so far this year, I can't recommend The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper enough. This book talks about justice and reconciliation in the context of Genesis. I finished it six weeks ago and can't stop thinking about it. Lisa Sharon Harper also spoke at my church in January and was fantastic. If you're interested in social justice issues, racial reconciliation, issues between genders, and how that fits into your faith, you have to read this book.

On the fiction front, I really enjoyed The First Family by Michael Palmer. It's a medical-political thriller, if that's even a genre. I've been reading a lot of psychological thrillers, which I enjoy but they're pretty formulaic so this was a nice diversion from that format.

I have a few other books in progress:

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan
Water from a Deep Well by Dr. Gerald L. Sittser

I heard great things about Becoming Mrs. Lewis but it started dragging for me and I think I might abandon it altogether. I hate not finishing a book and almost never do it but there are so many books to read that I'm allowing myself to give this one up, at least for now.

I also wanted to share what I think is a great resource. I buy some of these books but I get as many as I can through the Libby app. Libby allows you to borrow eBooks and audiobooks by linking up your local library card to the app. It's great. They don't have every single title but they have a good selection, the same selection your local library has, you can join wait lists for books, and then they just show up on your Kindle when they're available. It's awesome. There are other similar apps like Hoopla and RB Digital but I've found that Libby has the best selection for my library system and interests.

As always, I'd love you recommendations. I have a few books on my "want to read" list and could use more!

1.30.2019

Florida Surprise: Magic Kingdom

We woke up early to get to Magic Kingdom before it opened for the day to squeeze every possible minute of magic out of the day. We were able to quickly gobble down breakfast at our hotel (Mickey waffles, of course) and catch the resort bus to the park, arriving before it opened.


We got through the security lines and into the park fairly quickly. This allowed us to enjoy part of the daily welcome show and get some photos in front of Cinderella Castle before Main Street was too crowded.


From the minute we stepped into the park, Elia was enchanted. I loved watching her take everything in. I knew we would have fun but experiencing Disney with her was more fun than I could have imagined. I decided that we would just do whatever she wanted all day long and it paid off. Seeing what she was interested in and what rides she liked and what attractions and characters she was drawn to was the best part of the day.

What We Rode:
  1. Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  2. Enchanted Tales with Belle
  3. Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid
  4. Peter Pan's Flight
  5. Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  6. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  7. Mad Tea Party (aka, the Magic Tea Cups)
  8. Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  9. Jungle Cruise
  10. Swiss Family Tree House
  11. It's a Small World
  12. Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid (Again)
Because we were staying at a Disney resort, we were able to book our FastPasses up to 60 days ahead of our trip. If you're not familiar with FastPasses, you basically go into a special line during a reserved time frame so you get into rides without such a long wait. You can book up to three at a time and once you use them all, you can added more, one at a time through the My Disney Experience app, throughout the day. I snagged FastPasses for Enchanted Tales with Belle, Journey of the Little Mermaid, and Dumbo ahead of time and shuffled some things around during the day to get more rides in.


My favorite ride was Peter Pan's Flight, same as when I was a kid. It's nostalgic for me, Peter Pan was by far my favorite Disney movie as a kid plus I remembered the ride fondly from childhood trips to Disneyland and Disney World. To my delight, Elia loved it too, deeming it her favorite ride in Magic Kingdom.

Another highlight of the day was seeing Elia meet different characters. Before the trip, I did not think she would be interested in meeting any characters but got her an autograph book, just in case. She was a little hesitant at first but meeting characters ended up being one of her favorite parts of the trip. While we didn't meet so many characters at Magic Kingdom, meeting characters became her main goal at Epcot but more on that later.

Who We Met:
  1. Belle
  2. Ariel
  3. Anastasia and Drizella
  4. Aladdin
  5. Tinker Bell
  6. Elena of Avalor
  7. Cinderella
I was really impressed by the character meet and greets. They were more that just photo ops, each character spent a good amount of time with each child. They were so friendly and made Elia feel so comfortable and special.


Elia says her favorite character to meet was Elena of Avalor because "She's the best! I love her!" but she hadn't heard of her before we met her so... who knows. Elena was very sweet though. In my recollection, Elia liked meeting Tinker Bell the best. Tink told her that she was in the middle of a game of tag with Peter Pan and asked Elia to tell him he was "it" and stick out her tongue at him. Elia thought that was hilarious.

We had a very full day and after much fun, we headed to our dinner reservation at Tony's Town Square, inspired by the restaurant in Lady and the Tramp. We were happy to rest our feet for awhile and the food was pretty good. After dinner, my mom and Linda departed, they both had to get ready to head home. We had such a fun day exploring the Magic Kingdom with them!


Elia and I weren't quite ready to call it quits so spent the next few hours exploring more and meeting a few characters I mentioned above. We also decided to stay for the nightly fireworks show. It was a beautiful show but too loud for Elia so we ended up sneaking out part way through. We headed back to the hotel for the night and collapsed into bed, exhausted and happy.


What a fabulous day we had at the Magic Kingdom!

Next up, I have more magic to share about our day at Epcot. See you real soon!

1.28.2019

Florida Surprise: Disney Springs + Pop Century Resort

As you read in my previous post, after a great few days on the Florida coast, we were off to Disney World! Elia, my mom, and I set off to Orlando with my Aunt Linda just behind us. We arrived in the late afternoon and headed straight to Disney Springs for our first taste of Disney Magic.


We ate outside at The Edison, a great start to our Disney experience. It wasn't busy and we got a table overlooking the lagoon. We watched car boats go by as we enjoyed a late lunch and I indulged in a colorful cocktail.


I was really looking forward to checking out the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM so Elia and I made a beeline towards it after lunch. She was so excited to pick out her cupcake and watch it come out. It's a fun and unique concept and next time we're in Disney Springs, we'll definitely repeat the experience.


After wandering around Disney Springs a bit more we went to our hotel to check in. We stayed at Disney's Pop Century Resort. Pop Century is one of Disney's value resorts and I was really impressed. When we were there, most of the rooms at the hotel had recently undergone renovation. We stayed in one of those refurbished rooms and they felt so new and fresh. Elia loved that she got to sleep in a Murphy bed and the Disney themed room decor.

On top of the lovely room, the theming at the hotel was over the top. Elia definitely could have been convinced that our hotel actually was Disney World. I kid you not, we could have just stayed there for the next two days and she'd have been none the wiser. There were huge one- and two-story tall figurines from Disney movies and different large scale versions of popular toys such as a Rubik's cube, a gigantic foosball table, and Mr. Potato Heads throughout the property. I didn't take very many photos but you can click here to see photos of the grounds.

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon getting settled in, exploring the hotel and swimming. After we were sufficiently tuckered out, we ordered a pizza to our room, and got ready for bed. Another great feature of staying at Disney resorts is that they start playing a bedtime story on the TV a few times every hour in the evening. The story features Duffy, a bear that Minnie makes for Mickey, and Elia just loved watching the story from her Murphy bed as she drifted off to sleep. Even without experiencing the parks on our first Disney day we were off to a great start and ready for a good night's sleep so we could wake up bright and early to squeeze as much fun as possible out of our day at the Magic Kingdom.

Next Up: We visit the Magic Kingdom.

P.S. You can watch video of Elia getting her cupcake from the Sprinkles ATM on the Facebook page. Click here to "Like" the page and watch!

1.17.2019

Florida Surprise: Space Coast

I meant to write this post about nine months ago but with spring break on the horizon, I figured now is as good a time as any.

For spring break last year, we didn't have any big plans so when my mom came up with the idea that we visit her sister (my Aunt Linda) in Florida, I jumped at it. I decided to bring just Elia with me and thought it would be fun to make it a surprise for her. We didn't leave until mid-spring break week so on Wednesday morning, Elia woke up and I asked her what she wanted to do that day and then suggested we go to Florida. Needless to say, she was very surprised and very excited. I was, too. Our bags were packed and ready to go and we went off to the airport to meet up with my mom and begin our adventure.


My aunt lives on the east coast of Florida in the region known as the Space Coast. She lives near beautiful beaches and waterways, and isn't far from Kennedy Space Center. During our visit, we spent our time enjoying the warmth, exploring the city and neighboring towns, and enjoyed a dolphin cruise and visited Kennedy Space Center. We packed so much into our time on the Space Coast!


We spent one morning enjoying a two-hour dolphin tour and it was so much fun. We set out on the Indian River and it wasn't long before we started to see loads of dolphins following the boat and jumping alongside it. We also saw pelicans, which I find so beautiful, and we spotted a few manatees as well. Our tour guides were really friendly and I'm so glad we did the tour. My aunt had taken the same tour before and I'm we got to learn more about the ecosystem and wildlife of the area.



Elia was just shy of her fifth birthday on the trip and was looking forward to her space-themed birthday party in a few weeks. When I realized how close we were to Kennedy Space Center, I knew we had to go. I had been there as a kid and all I remembered was walking around outside and that they had carts selling Dippin' Dots everywhere.


The Space Center was way cooler than I remembered it being. I was so impressed by the size, the way they presented information, and the fact that it felt like such an authentic space travel experience. Elia loved seeing the space shuttle and rockets and while we learned a lot it never felt boring.


We really had a blast there and I'd definitely recommend spending a day at the Space Center if you find yourself in the area with kids.

Believe it or not, we packed all of this into just over two days of our trip. We had so much fun exploring eastern Florida and visiting Linda, she's such a gracious host! 

As the first photo of Elia and my mom suggests, our fun didn't end there. After a few days on the coast, we packed up and headed towards Orlando for Elia's first Disney adventure. I cannot wait to share all about that trip so stay tuned for more posts very soon. Spoiler alert: it was completely magical.

Do you have spring break plans this year? What's the best spring break trip you've ever been on?

1.04.2019

What I Read in 2018

Happy New Year! My reading goal for 2018 was to read 12 books. One a month. I have been on a reading kick for the last few months and ending up reading 27 books last year. I use Goodreads to keep track of what I'm reading. You can check out my whole 2018 list here if you're interested but want to share my favorites from the year below.


Fiction

Historical fiction will always be my favorite. I credit my deep love for the American Girl series as a kid for this. I also read quite a few psychological thrillers this year, and while they're entertaining, enjoyable, and quick to read, my heart belongs to historical fiction. I just love learning about history in this way and find myself searching the internet for more information about the time periods or characters I'm reading about.

1. America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Lauren Kamoie
This book is the story of Patsy Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's eldest daughter. It takes you through her life, which was fascinating. In addition to have a front seat to the American revolution, she spent time in Paris and was very loyal to her father. The authors of this book spent a lot of time researching Patsy's life and it shows. This book was long but still I found myself wishing it wouldn't end.

2. All of the Fiona Davis Books
Fiona Davis writes in a style I enjoy, taking you from modern day to historic New York City by connecting contemporary characters to the stories of women who lived or worked in iconic historic buildings in the city. If you like this kind of fiction, I'd start with The Address or The Masterpiece. I liked The Dollhouse but I found the main character a bit annoying but if you enjoy the other two, you'll enjoy this as well.

3. The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
Taking place on the fictional Winthrop Island in the 1950s and 1960s, this story dives into the culture of the island and the relationships between those who summer there and the people who live on the island year-round. I found it to be a really enjoyable read, with its vintage appeal and a storyline that didn't give itself away too soon. It makes for a really great summer or vacation read.

4. My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Lauren Kamoie
I, like everyone else who has seen it, loved Hamilton. This book is written from Eliza Hamilton's perspective. Like America's First Daughter, this book takes place over the course of the protagonist's life so you get to know her as a young woman and then see what her life was like after Alexander Hamilton's death. It was well researched, includes lots of information based on Eliza's personal letters and was just fascinating. The book is long but worth sticking with.

Non-Fiction

I don't read a ton of non-fiction but have read some great non-fiction books this year. Many have been for a cohort I'm part of this year at church but not all of them.

1. Recapturing the Wonder by Mike Cosper
Subtitled "Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World", this book points out how resistant we are as a culture to the possibility of the miracles and magic offered to us in the Christian faith. This book challenged my personal bias towards logic and rationalism and in turn helped me to think about the possibility of wonder. To remind myself that God is capable of  immeasurably more than my human brain can imagine. How refreshing and how freeing.

2. Becoming by Michelle Obama
I think basically everyone has read this book since it came out so I won't spend too much time on this one. The best word I've come up with to describe Michelle Obama's autobiography is "relatable". Her story feels like it could be my story or anyone else's. Of course, a glimpse into the Obama's and White House life was a draw. I've heard that it's great on audiobook, too.

3. Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud
This book. If you are having trouble making a difficult decision, particularly professionally, read this book. I was in a situation where I was trying to discern if it was hard because it was hard or if it was hard because it wasn't the right thing and someone recommended this book to me and I found it so helpful. Even if you're not in a similar situation, you likely will be one day and this is a great addition to any professional or leader's toolkit.

I set my goal for 2019 at 20 books. I just finished a psychological thriller, The Other Woman by Sandie Jones and am working through two other books so the year is off to a good start! I love recommendations so please let me know what you're reading or have loved in the comments.

P.S. I "read" another book via audiobook, Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. I didn't count it in my 2018 count because I didn't actually read it but does it count? Does consuming a book count as reading it? What do you think?