Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Literary Junkies: An Online Book Club Guest Post

Taylor, from Pink Heels Pink Truck, is visiting The Simplicity today to tell y'all about a great opportunity to join Literary Junkies.  It's an online book club that I found through a blogger and have met several other bloggers through this awesome opportunity.  If you're looking for ways to connect with other bloggers who love to read or want to join with your swap partner, read on!

Pink Heels Pink Truck

Hi fellow book lovers!! I'm Taylor (Pink Heels Pink Truck), co-founder of the Literary Junkies Online Book Club. I'm excited to be here today to tell you all about our online book club!

Literary Junkies ButtonAs I said, I'm one of the co-founders of the Literary Junkies. My partner in crime in this awesomeness is Leslie (By the Porchlight). We both share a huge (like I mean, HUGE) love of books and we got to emailing/chatting back and forth one evening about our love of said books and well, it just turned into "why don't we start an online book club so other book lovers have a place too" and ta-da! The Literary Junkies was born. :)

We have over 50 members currently and are growing! Membership is easy peasy! Just click here, make a request to join our group and the doors will open to you. :) (Well, after we click the little approve button...but don't worry we let everyone in who asks...we just keep it private so we can personally welcome each one of you! Oh and to keep the spammy people out!)

The Literary Junkies meets monthly on Twitter on the 3rd Tuesday of the month under the hashtag #LiteraryJunkies. When we aren't partying it up on twitter, we mingle with each other on our facebook group page. We also host a monthly Literary Junkies link up that falls on the same 3rd Tuesday of the month. This fun linky is, you guessed it, all about books. :)

We are currently reading "Diamond in the Rough: A Memoir" by Shawn Colvin and will be chatting about her book on May 21st. Our next book for our June discussion is "Silver Linings Playbook" by Matthew Quick.

We've got some fun and extremely exciting things (well Leslie and I think so) coming up for all of our members and we would love to have more fellow book lovers join in, so if this sounds like it's your cup of tea...come join us!

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Ryan's Birthday Shenanigans

Omg does this not remind you of Gatsby? I lurve to design graphics :)
My wonderful husband had his birthday last week and it's his first one back in the states.  Last year he spent his 21st in Afghanistan, so I tried my best to make it a little bit more special.  That's easier said than done with two very different schedules, but we were fortunate to have it all work and enjoy dinner out together.  My favorite was being able to snuggle up on the couch and watch my favorite movie, Django Unchained and also watch for the first time, Gangster's Squad.  

 Beer tasting kit that was available at Target! So much fun!

 Beer Coasters

 Hand-painted present bags
I put different presents in each bag that I made, include a copy of Django Unchained.

How do you like to celebrate your significant others' birthday?

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

2nd Preview to Summer Link-up: 5 Books Every Woman Should Read

This week's book link-up challenge was really difficult for me (I feel like this will be a trend) :P.  Serena's challenge of choosing 5 books that every woman should read had me brainstorming a few days ago on some of the most influential books that have had some type of impact on me as a woman.  It wasn't until this morning did I come up with these five, one of which I own but haven't read yet (I know, that probably shouldn't count but it's been recommended to me time and again!).

I thought back to my Gender & Women's studies courses at UW-Madison.  I loved them so much that I wish I had made it into a double major instead of just a certificate (the equivalent of a minor).  I learned so much in those courses and it's translated into my life and what I value as a feminist.

I've chosen these five books for different reasons, but I also feel like they will apply to a wide range of audiences and women who may not also identify as a feminist but would like to learn more about female struggle throughout the world, history, and today's society.
1. The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler:
I picked up this book the summer before I went to college.  I was even reading it up to Madison, on my way to a program called Base Camp.  I was about to go canoeing down the Wisconsin River for three to four days straight.  I had it in my hand when I met our "tour guides" who were also Madison students.  They had already read it, loved it, and I saw it as a good sign for the book.  This book is a collection of different monologues or stories of women that is meant to be performed.  I've seen it twice as well as another version called Yoni Ki Baat.  Each story revolves around the female identity, anatomy, and of course, vaginas.  Some stories are more serious than others, some are downright hilarious.  One story even involves an orgasm, making the live performance either incredibly amusing for some and uncomfortable for others.  It was one of my first experiences reading about the female perspective and it was a beautiful opportunity since I was about to leave for college.  This book gave me this window where I decided to check out other courses involving women's history and women's rights.  Looking back, this book was a gently push into me becoming more of a feminist.  I think it's a great book for women to read in general because vaginas usually aren't discussed openly, yet as women we have them, it's the part of the female anatomy that is most often used to describe women, and it has developed a culture around it.

2. Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales:
I took a course in college where we got to analyze fairy tales and I loved it.  I would recommend that women read the original fairy tales as told by Anderson, the Grimms, and Arabian Nights because these have been passed down for generations.  They're also significantly more different than the Disney versions that many of us have grown up with.  Many of them are very dark and teach brutal lessons.  A lot of these stories also paint the history of women in many different cultures, whether they were valued or oppressed and it's a good reminder that each of these stories has a good dose of reality.  For example in Cinderella, her "wicked" step-sisters are forced to dance in burning hot shoes, so they essentially burned themselves to death.  Check out copies from the library and see what life lessons are taught from these original tales.  It's more than prince charming, they often involve realizing your true potential.

3. The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler:
This book helped change my perspective on what young women went through during the eras of the 50s and 60s.  I often think that are portrayal of that time period is very much a depiction of Leave it to Beaver, where you have the perfect household but families didn't upkeep that lifestyle without several flaws.  Fessler, the author, was adopted and she knew that her mother was essentially forced to give up her daughter for adoption so Fessler went on this journey interviewing other women from this time period who were also pressured into giving up their children for adoption.  These women were teenagers or college-aged women who were unwed and became pregnant.  Many were sent away to facilities in other states where they carried out their pregnancies, delivered their babies, and then never saw them again.  These were difficult stories to take in for many reasons, but mainly because these women felt so isolated and they were shamed by their families.  Some of these women were raped and then humiliated.  One story that left an impression on me took place in Wisconsin and a young woman was on a date, who then was threatened to walk home in a snow storm unless she had sex with her date.  It was a dark time and all because these women were expected to have these children and then give them up.  Societal expectations were ridiculous (women took tranquilizers back then to keep calm).  These young women also weren't provided any type of counseling afterwards, so many of them had a lot of emotional and psychological trauma after being isolated and then forced to give up their baby.  Some of the women, who everyone in their town knew what had happened, had been deemed as "sluts" and boys would try to convince them to have sex with them because during that time pregnancy = you knew how to have sex.  These were definitely difficult stories to get through but so necessary to teach future generations.  Today we see Teen Mom on MTV and many of these teenagers have the support of their families and the state.  This was not the case back then.  These stories and many articles that I've read through reproductive rights courses further cements my beliefs in understanding the big picture of what all women go through.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
This book has been recommended to me by so many people!  Diamant takes a biblical character and dives into the story of Dinah.  In the Bible she's mentioned briefly through different sections, however, she is the protagonist in a story that covers the traditions of women during biblical times.  In a time where men would have multiple wives (and still do), women would gather in a separate tent during the time they had their periods, were birthing, or even when they were sick.  The book also covers the stories of the wives of Jacob and how they care for Dinah.  In this tent, they grow in their relationships with each other, share stories, and cultivate a life together.  I'm working through the book right now, but the biggest complaints that I've read from others are usually biblical scholars.  I would approach it with an open mind and focus on the relationship between the women versus the relation of passages from the Bible.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin:
I haven't read this yet, so I feel a little silly putting it on this list, but there are several books that people I admire have recommended and this is one of them.  I have an ever-growing list of books that I would like to read and specifically books that every woman should read.  Being in my early 20s, I think now, more than ever, is a great time to tackle these types of lists.  Although a completely time period, Chopin's novel deals with a lot of the societal issues that are brought up in Fessler's book (mentioned above).  Her protagonist deals with the societal pressures of going into a marriage that she didn't want to be and then subsequently dreaming about what it would be like to have the equalities of men.  What was really awesome about this book was that it was written in a time period where the fantasies of these fictional characters were very taboo.  It's considered a feminist classic.

Preview to Summer participants- make sure to link-up with Serena over at Spillerena!
Link-up with your name and blog title and if you have to schedule your post for a future time, please just leave a comment under her post.

Be sure to check out the other ladies' choice books and if you're looking for some other fun resources check out More and Flavor Wire.

 Thanks for reading!

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

P2S Book Care Package Ideas

I hope you all are having a fantastic week!
Earlier this week I posted about some tips and tricks in approaching a book swap.
Sometimes you never know how these swap things work, 
so don't be afraid to ask us if you have any questions.

I have had so much fun reading your responses from the registration.
All of you sound like so much fun and we have so many different personalities, I love it!
Some of you are moms, runners, bakers, crafters, career women 
(who the run world...Beyonce shout-out), students, and people who have a nerdy side.

It got me brainstorming on what type of care packages I would make if any of you fantastic women were my partner.  So I created some book care package collages and you can see them below.  Some of the ideas were from Pinterest and others I got from shops like Fred Flare or Urban Outfitters.  I highly recommend checking out your local craft store or Target because many their dollar bins often have really cool items.  Last time I checked Target they had glass terrariums which are usually way more expensive than $1.  Some ideas from Pinterest actually have tutorials, so if you feel like getting a little crafty, why not?

For the fans of chick lit, I was inspired by the fun whimsical covers of many of the books considered "chick lit."  I found authors similar to the writing style of Sophie Kinsella on Goodreads.  From there, I chose two different books, one from author Jane Green and the other from Lindsey Kelk.  I figured this would be a good tactic to find authors that my partner would be enjoy and maybe she hasn't read yet.  I also included a fun pattern infinity scarf, which is perfect to wear on cooler summer nights, heart-shaped sunglasses because of the romance found in chick lit books, and flowers in a can.  These items I found on Fred Flare, however, you can find similar items at Target.

For fans of traveling, I tried to find items that would fit into the love of exploring new places and even staying within your resident abode.  I found this French "bonjour" nametag wallet on Fred Flare for those who have traveled to France or enjoy a little humor.  The Russian doll is actually a manicure kit, also from Fred Flare.  It's small, portable and really cute, perfect for the global traveler!  I also chose Eat, Pray, Love as the main book for the care package and a copy of Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Experiences.  To capture memories from local travels or far abroad, I included a travel stub journal.
For the Pinterest-inspired book lover, I headed to the site to find some great tutorials and of course, inspiration.  I chose two popular books from different genres because I figured Pinterest lovers usually like best-sellers and sometimes going outside of their comfort zone.  I found a few tutorials on how to make cute necklace charms and of course Etsy sites that make tons of different book necklaces.  I also found tutorials on how to make different style bookmarks, including these cute peek-a-boo Dorothy ones.  You could also include a mug and several different items.  This type of care package is usually great to put together at book stores.  You could also provide the supplies and instructions for your partner to make the bookmark or necklace and it can be a crafting experience as well!
For the athletic book swap partner, there are so many different ideas I had but I also felt like this was a solid care package, one that any fitness-oriented person would enjoy.  I chose Wheat Belly because all of my fitness/personal-trainer friends have been recommending it and it's an educational opportunity for any healthy lifestyle.  I also chose Tuesdays with Morrie because I figured if someone is going through a difficult time with weightloss or their fitness goals or is simply exhausted after a long day, this book is inspirational.  I also included a Runner's I.D. bracelet which is a great resource to have if you enjoy working out in the great outdoors.  It's a safety precaution that can also be fashionable.  I also chose a pair of running shorts and a water bottle because both can help your partner achieve her fitness goals!
We have some awesome Mommas signed up for this swap and although I don't have any kids, I can only imagination how difficult and wonderful life can be.  So I turned this care package into a little bit of a relaxing experience for all our sweet moms out there.  I picked 50 Shades of Grey and The Art of Racing in the Rain.  One dealing with the sexy Christian Grey and the other with dogs, I thought two completely different books to help moms relax ;)  I also thought that moms deserve a bit of relaxation but don't always have the full time to go to a spa or nail appointment.  So I included a copy of People Magazine, the new style manicures that are easy to apply, and a statement necklace so mommas can put together a great outfit while on the go.

What are some great ideas that you have?

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Importance of Saying "No" to Being a Bridesmaid

Xochitl Gonzales recently wrote an article for HuffPost on why it's important to say "no" if you really don't feel like you can fulfill the roles of being a bridesmaid.  I thought this article was so spot on and although she shared her personal experience with it, I felt that I could definitely relate through more than one occasion. 

One of my absolute best-friends is getting married this year.  Emily is an absolute doll and I love her more than anything.  One of these reasons is that she is smart.  I live in Montana and that is just simply too far away to be a major planning part of a wedding in Wisconsin.  However, I am one of youngest of my friends that's not in the military.  Therefore I get the specialty Matron-of-Honor card.  Matron = married, maid = not.  So Emily has a Matron-of-Honor and a Maid-of-Honor.

We've had the conversation numerous times about how I wish I was there and I could be more of the planning process but the fact is, I can't.  I live 14+ hours away and it's difficult to take leave for occasions like a bridal shower or bachelorette party.  When it's wedding time, I've blocked off a section of days that are dedicated to Emily and saying "hello" to my family.  Emily has the assistance of her family, her maid of honor, bridesmaids, and her fiance's family back home.  I trust that she's in good hands, especially since I get Facebook and text updates.

I said "yes" with all of this as part of the understanding.  However, I have witnessed other ladies for other weddings say "yes" when it really should have been a "no."

Being a bridesmaid requires a great deal of work and commitment. You are there for the bride on the couple's special day.  I know it's the "bride's day" but honestly, two people are committing to each other for the rest of their lives.  That's a bigger deal than the shade of peach the bridesmaid dresses seem to be.  It's their day.  That means the role of a bridesmaid differentiates per wedding but overall you are there to help in anyway you can.  It may mean having to help in the DIY department, sending out e-mails, being there for dress fittings, footing the bill for a dress, etc.

There are costs with being a bridesmaid including probably over $100 for the dress, then the shoes, then accessories, then your hair, probably your nails, a hotel room, plane tickets if you're flying in, etc.   I've seen young women enthusiastically accept being a bridesmaid when asked but then they don't follow through.  One of my friends who recently got married, had a bridesmaid essentially back out a few months before the wedding because she didn't think she could afford the plane ticket.  On one side I can understand the financial difficulties that comes with flying to a wedding and being a part of it but ultimately, if there's a possibility that you can't afford this then you need to communicate that with the bride.  Weddings can be very expensive and that's not fair to your friend to back out on her that close to the wedding.

I have always loved weddings, ever since I was a little kid.  I learned everything I could about them, including etiquette and the roles of the bridal party.  When I married Ryan, it was so stressful because I was trying to plan a very small wedding in California while I was in Wisconsin and we were all in college.  My sorority sisters threw me an awesome bachelorette party but it was difficult to plan anything else because you were working with young women at an age where none of use were really used to weddings.  From this lesson, I would highly recommend brides express their expectations and when they need help to their bridal party.  I had been so stressed out that when our ceremony got cancelled due to the passing of Ryan's father, I basically let Ryan's mom coordinate our small ceremony and low key reception.  I had like zero interest in doing it because I didn't have any help from my family.  Ryan and I would like to renew our vows but I feel like I'll still keep it a small occasion just because I think weddings get out of hand and I still want to be friends with my bridesmaids after the day ;)

How was your wedding?  If you're in the midst of the planning process, what would you recommend to other brides on their planning process?

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Chat: Strangest Book You've Read

Today I'm linking up with Sweet Green Tangerine and Stacey of Life on Cephei.  This was a little bit difficult for me.  Recently, HuffPost Books put up a Facebook post asking readers what book were they just too disturbed to finish.  Their responses intrigued me and became books that I added to my to-read list because well, I'm curious.  One title was Battle Royale which was basically the Japanese-style version of The Hunger Games and came out several years before Suzanne Collins' novel.  Taking place in Japan, students are forced on an online together to fight to the death.  Unlike Hunger Games, the students were tricked and it shows what people become like when they have no other option.  Another title was The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  Taking place post-nuclear apocalypse, a father and son survive against other humans turning into cannibals.  V.C. Andrews, the author of the Dollanganger series, writes about children who are forced to live in their grandmother's attic.  It deals with some dark issues like killing children, isolation, and incest, but the Flowers in the Attic is crazy popular.  I've physically picked up a copy of it in the bookstore and had it in my hands so many times but have never purchased it.  I can handle dark, but can I handle that?  Other mentions included Stephen King novels like Pet Cemetery.  I remember seeing a brief part of the movie and becoming incredibly sad at the thought of a little boy losing his life.


So the strangest book that I've read, off of the top of my head, would be 50 Shades of Grey.  One the writing is terrible but I was sucked into the character of Christian Grey.  I also was really interested in why it was so incredibly popular and had been dubbed by the media as "mommy porn."  Having worked in sexual health research and sexual health education, a lot of what the book covers has been existing for hundreds of years.  I know it disturbs a lot of people, the relationship that Grey has with Ana, however it was one of the first fictional books that I've seen that actively talked about sex and had the characters communicating their boundaries.  I was impressed. Would I have preteens read it? Haha no, but I do like seeing that type of communicating between consenting adults.  You don't really see that in the "sex scenes" of popular shows, advertisements, or even books.

I think in general, romance novels are a little strange.  They are my occasional guilty pleasure, if I need a "potato chip book."  The plots are incredibly outlandish and of course they take place on a cruise ship or in a villa by the sea.  If only, if only ;)

Thanks for reading! What is the strangest book that you've read?

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Good Approach to a Blogger Book Swap

Hello Preview to Summer (#p2s) Participants!
I am so excited to have 40 awesome bloggers as a part of this swap!
I made a quick video on some great ways to approach the swap.
My biggest tips include: 
be friendly
get to know your partner
send a book care package that you would love to receive.

Check it out if this is your first swap or if you've never gotten a good 
intro into swapping with another blogger.

When sending a used book, think about the condition it already is in.  If there are tears, stains, it looks like a hot mess, don't send that copy.  If you're requesting to swap new books, and you provide a list of potential books that you would like to receive, make sure to mix it up with new and older books.  New books can range from $15 as a paperback to $25+ as a hardcover.  That gets really expensive, quickly.  However, your partner may be able to find older best sellers on sale for 50% off.  For me I love used books that are in great condition.  I find best sellers (even new books) at thrift stores for $3 each.  The latest trip to Goodwill produced 3 "new" books for that price.  It's a great steal!  If you originally put new books only or a new book preference, consider that for your partner.  Used books can be great finds.  

For my partner Maria, we shared books that we love and other things that we enjoy in life.  She collects different copies of Wuthering Heights and one of her favorite reads in Wicked.  That's great information for me to create a care package for her.  If you're having any trouble, check out Pinterest or contact a co-host.  I know many of you have already received e-mails from a specific co-host, so feel free to send your questions her way.

Also make sure to send a card!  It makes me so sad to see participants not send a card or throw together a book and a cardboard bookmark.  Not that I wouldn't be appreciative of receiving a care package, but if we all put some time and effort into our partner's care package, this can be a lot of fun.

Last but not least, don't flake out.  I've spoken with so many of the participants and I think we have a solid group of bloggers.  To say it bluntly, it sucks when you put together a great care package and someone does not reciprocate at all.  There are great bloggers who put together a great package with books and fun personal items and then don't receive anything.  That is terrible!  Please don't put any of the co-hosts in that position to have to contact any of the participants for that reason.  It puts all of us between a rock and a hard place.  That's why we emphasize really getting to know your swap partner because we want each of you to have a great time!  We want each of you to receive thoughtful care packages.  Just remember that as you put together, think "would I like to receive this?"  It's that simple.  Finally along this same theme, make sure to blog about it.  Your partner took time and money to send you this and a great blog post with pictures and heartfelt content means the world to every one of us.

Living La Vida Holoka

I'm also guest blogging today over at Living La Vida Holoka and special thanks to Jessica for the opportunity :)  I talk about being a bit of a book snob, but it's not exactly a bad thing... ;)

Thanks for reading and enjoy being halfway through the week!

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 101

Happy Earth Day! Does anyone else remember it being a teaching opportunity back in Elementary School?  I never took it very seriously until I actually became an adult.  My family never really took into consideration the amount of plastic waste we produced and so it wasn't until I was on my own and had the opportunity to prevent waste did I actually take some time to learn about it.  
After we dive into more details on great ways to leave less of a carbon footprint, you will find the winner of the eBook copy of The Great Gatsby.

I'm still learning more about ways to live a greener lifestyle, so if you recommend specific resources or great reads- definitely leave a comment below!

In terms of recycling, it's actually really tricky where we live because they don't actively pick up glass or plastic.  My response? You're kidding me, right?  What is the first thing you learn about recycling as a little kid...plastic counts.  From my experience, this city in Montana isn't very green-friendly which is a little annoying since Montana has some of the most beautiful natural landscapes you can still view in the U.S.  

What are some ways you can combat this?
What are you throwing away?
This can be difficult for people because plastic packaging is such a natural part of our lives.  It's the plastic wrapper on our Cliff Bar or the plastic seal on the top of our coffee to go.  If you're serious about cutting back on the amount of plastic waste you use, take the time to record or monitor what things in your life are made of plastic.  A great recommendation that I read in a recent issue of Real Simple is to reduce the size of your garbage/recycling cans.  It's so easy just to throw things out but if your garbage bag is filling up quickly, you take notice and it may help you realize exactly what you're throwing away.

Use less packaging
When you go grocery shopping, pay attention to the packaging of the products you buy.  Yes, buying the individually separated portions of chicken breasts makes life easier for a few minutes but that is a lot of extra plastic waste.  If you have the opportunity to buy in bulk without food going to waste, consider using more plastic containers aka Tupperware.  This is perfect for either storing food inbetween prepping for meals or packing lunches.  How many sandwich baggies have you found yourself throwing away?  Realistically I'm not going to reuse a plastic sandwich bag.  These LunchSkins sandwich bags are a great alternative.  You can also find tutorials online to make your own.  Love to drink water?  Carry a reusable water bottle with you!  Camelbaks are so popular because of "bite and suck" straws, but use whatever system works for you.  There are several different brands and products out there, some more eco-friendly than others but as long as you're throwing away less, that's less in the landfills or being burned to add to the air. 

 Re-use, save, and recycle!
I'm notorious for having plastic, disposable water bottles around me.  I know, tsk tsk, but it tends to be easier for me when it comes to my work.  I do however save them and have them to fill up in my car when I do have access to a water fountain.  When you're done with them or they're starting to trash up your car, remember to recycle!  Does your workplace promote recycling?  See if your company can put in a few more containers that are dedicated to recycling only.  Make sure everyone turns off lights when they're done using a room.  Unplug devices that aren't being used.  Turn down the heat/air when you're not home.  Guess what? There's even an app for that!  Depending on the area, turning in recyclables can even score you a little $$. I always thought that fraternities should totally cash in on that, especially with the metal tabs on beer cans. ;)

Instead of tossing out old clothes, blankets, home accessories, consider donating them.  You can always donate them to your local Goodwill or consider a Women & Children's shelter.  They often are looking for additional supplies, hygiene products, and toys for children.  What I like to tell myself is that the less stuff that I have, the less I need to clean.  Apart from that, it really helps and benefits other people.  Those set of dishes that are just taking up space can be donated to a thrift shop for another family who could actually use them.  If you live near a military base, see if there are any programs that contribute to military families.  In the Air Force we have the Airman's Attic.  For our youngest of enlisted members across all branches, their wages are often really tight to their family needs.  It means so much to all of us when our community helps.  One team, one fight :)

For the ladies out there, there are a couple ways to be greener around your time of the month.  When you think about it, menstrual pads and tampons add a lot of garbage around the world every single year.  It's not like that's a problem that can really be altered.  However, you can be greener about it.  If you prefer tampons, consider using a menstrual cup.  A menstrual cup, like the brand Diva Cup, is a reusable cup that works through suction.  This may be TMI for some ladies, but while tampons soak, a menstrual cup catches.  From here, you clean it yourself.  Overtime it will save you thousands of dollars.  I'm a user of it myself and I love this product.  A woman can change a pad or tampon 4+ times a day and that can be anywhere from a couple of days to a week.  For me, I didn't like the idea of adding that much garbage when there are alternative solutions.  You can also use a reusable cloth pad.  Party in my Pants is one company that produces these cloth pads.  Much like a disposable pad, it works the exact same way.  You can add additional liners depending on your preference and they have fun styles and designs.  All you have to do is add it to your laundry load.   

I don't have any kids yet but I also plan on using reusable diapers.  Like being greener about your period, using reusable diapers is not only Earth-friendly but budget friendly.  Even with our dogs now, we don't use potty pads because that would produce waste anywhere from a perfect day with 0 accidents to 5+.  I always advocate using older towels and a lot of patience.

Hopefully these are helpful tips for your household.  I know that I'm still on making my lifestyle greener and still figuring out recycling with this city.  

What are ways that you make your lifestyle Earth-friendly?

The winner of the eBook copy of The Great Gatsby:

Congratulations to Lori!

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Preview to Summer 1st Link-Up: Top Three Favorite Books

Registration is now closed for this session of the Blogger Book Swap and I am so thrilled to have 38 participants and 6 total co-hosts.  It's going to be a great swap!  It was so exciting to read through the responses and see what inspires you to not just read, but why you love books.  I especially enjoyed reading what you wrote about yourselves.  You are all rockstars!  I wish y'all could see my face right now, because I'm just giddy.

I'm not just giddy because you all sound fantastic, but also because everyone is in this swap for the right reasons.  The biggest complaint of those who have participated in blogger-style swaps is that their partner "forgot" to send their end of the swap.  There's nothing like an uncooperative blogger to turn a fun event onto a sour note.  This Wednesday when pairings are announced, you can also find a convenient etiquette blog post/video on the do's and don'ts of swapping.

One facet of this swap is our use of writing prompts, ice breakers, and book-themed link-up opportunities.  Today is the start of our first book-themed link-up, hosted by Maria over at I Believe in Story.  It's a great theme where we all get to discuss our top three favorite books.  I definitely struggled with this one a little bit.  I definitely have my "top favorite" which conveniently is my eBook giveaway prize, but two more...the pressure!
    Although the graphic is a little misleading with my favorite book being to the far right, we'll start with that one anyways.  My favorite is The Great Gatsby and by "favorite," I find it to be one of the most moving books that I have ever read.  I think it covers how life sometimes goes.  You have the character of Gatsby who to me represents the common man, striving to accomplish his dreams.  He falls in love with a woman who is basically out of his league and despite the fact that she loves him, she marries someone else because of societal norms.  That's not shocking because sometimes life bites you in the ass like that.  But nevertheless we're humans, so we strive to figure out ways around that and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  I always felt that book covered the human spirit with its good intentions and flaws all wrapped into one.

The next one over is The Joy Luck Club which was a book that I read my sophomore year of high school in Ms. Jacoby's class.  We had to pick a book from a list to dissect and mark-up for this high school, sophomore English lit course.  Did anyone else hate writing in books?  It greatly disturbed me going into my freshman year that teachers actually wanted us to write and "ruin" books.  I quickly had to get over that, of course. I just recently came across old copies of books from high school that are still riddled with post-it notes and seven million different shades of pen inks to represent foreshadowing, symbolism, etc.  However, I had watched the movie version of The Joy Luck Club and did not realize it was actually based on a book.  I immediately chose it off of the list and it was probably one of my favorite books to analyze.  That English class introduced me to The Great Gatsby and The Joy Luck Club.  Ms. Jacoby was one of the most influential teachers in my life and I would love to send her an e-mail or shout-out if I ever ran into her again.  The Joy Luck Club discussed the relationships between mothers and daughters as one generation grew up in China and their daughters grew in the U.S.  It dove into their childhoods and how radically different they were from one another and there were so many moments that it was difficult for them to connect because they had grown up so differently from one another.  The entire book was the relationship between me and my mom.  I was born in the Philippines but she was actually raised there with her siblings.  I was her very Americanized child and she was forced to grow up and handle life at a very young age.  I lived in a very comfortable lifestyle while her family were poor farmers.  Everything about the book somehow matched up to issues in my life.  It was very moving and touching for me to go through that and experience it and especially as a teenager in high school.  It gave me that opportunity to appreciate everything my mom had to go through in order to give me the life that I have now.  Whether you come from an Asian family or not, it's definitely a great read for mothers and daughters or just women in a family together.

Finally, I adore the Harry Potter series.  I know I've talked about how I was introduced to Harry Potter on my blog before, but it never hurts to reminisce over good memories.  I picked up my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at a Scholastic Book Fair following parent-teacher conferences.  For doing well academically, my parents (and sometimes grandma) would reward me with a few books at the kiosk area set up by the main lobby.  Scholastic Book Fairs were my favorite!  My friend Jake's aunt introduced him to the book and I couldn't wait to start reading.  We were on a trip to San Diego since spring break started immediately after.  I read that book all the way through within a couple of days and was begging my dad to let me buy the second one in a bookstore in Old Town.  It started my love for the series and the sheer enjoyment of sitting down with my favorite characters and diving into their adventures.  Ryan hasn't read the books, but he's seen all of the movies.  I asked him if he would read the books and his response was, "maybe to our kids."

Well at least we know they'll be well-read ;)

What are your top three favorite reads?
Make sure to link-up with Maria!

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Snow, Museums, and a Baptism

 This weekend was the Sunday Sampler in Great Falls.  Several museums had free admission and special events to open up to the community.  A group of friends and I visited the art museum and the history museum after we all got back from our respective church services.

 Great Falls definitely isn't Chicago, but the museums held their own and I felt very "grown-up" in a sequin sweater, pencil skirt, heels, and down jacket.  It was even lightly snowing.  Welcome to Montana!

We all met up before leaving for the museums and my friend Nicole gave me this beautiful Willow Tree statue as a present after Baptism.  I feel so blessed to not only have such wonderful friends but to be a part of this military community.  We always look out for each other, we're family.

 Our first stop was the art museum and I was able to capture some images of my favorite pieces.
This is Three-Thousand and Counting which is an installation piece by Great Falls artist, Jean Price.  

 The artist designed a dog tag for each of the fallen military service members in the Iraq conflict.  There were specific Montana-shaped dog tags for those service members specifically from Montana.

 It was definitely a moving and humbling piece.  I was instantly drawn to it because of the vertical lines and when realizing that it symbolized fallen service members, it was a sobering moment.  Many of the dog tags had service members who were 18 or 19-years old.  At 23, I was blessed with the opportunity to live even just a while longer and something I don't take lightly.
 My next favorite exhibit was a tribute to the artist Lee Steen and his totem pole-esque cowboys.

 I thought they were so neat and I can't imagine what it must have been like to drive past these while on a road trip.  They're creepy, yet whimsical and so incredibly tall!  Each one was so unique and their personalities were based on what the artist could feel with the surface of the wood.  Knots were turned into mouths and the width of the log became the size of their foreheads.  It was pretty cool.

 The Exquisite Corpse was a project done by the local high school students.  They were made from lineolum bars and carved out to make prints.  I loved these and thought that they would be so popular if they were made into prints for the home.  I know that I would have bought some.

 Now the final piece I photographed was this telephone stand complete with circuit breakers.  It was an interactive art piece that could be solved by using the provided riddle.

 We probably spent 20-30 minutes here and still couldn't solve it.

We then made our way to the history museum where they had a wonderfully large military display.  With a section dedicated to female service members, we thought it would be a great opportunity to take a picture.  Their uniforms were so cute and actually form-fitting.  Definitely different than the ones we have today.

 I thought these dolls were so neat! They were made by the Freundlich Novelty Corporation in 1943 to help show support for service members during the war.  I've visited several museums and their military sections and have never seen these dolls before.

 I thought this was pretty interesting as well since these dolls were used in the 1940s to teach young mothers how to care for their newborn babies.  I know it may sound silly but I bet some of those earlier principles could well suited still for today.

 Here's a slightly better angle of the dolls.  The ladies and I decided that we needed to bring these back and make ones for our specific career field ;)

 I love WWII history and anything to do with WASP or the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

 There was even a display on the Hutterites, who are a communal branch of Anabaptists.
These were my favorites as they had such detail and beautiful works of embroidery.  Plus I'm a romantic and I thought these were so cute to make for your sweetheart.

I don't really know what Ryan would do with it if I made him one of these.  Wouldn't it be neat to bring back one of these original traditions?  How was your weekend?

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