Thursday, April 24, 2014

Her: "U" Should (Not) Read These

We are close to the end of the April A-Z Challenge. I am cheating a little bit today, but here is my "U" post.

Another month has ended, which means it is time to recap what I read this month. Again, I am behind on my reading goal, five books behind as of right now. Sean and I have been doing our Devotional reading before bed and then discussing what we read. I love, love, love that we have begun doing this and am not really minding that it is eating into my own personal reading time. It'll be OK! :)

Here's what I read this month:

Divergent by Veronica Roth
 Divergent (Divergent, #1)

Goodreads says:
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

I say:
It is a little bit of a cheat to say that I read this book this month. It would be more truthful to say that I abandoned this book this month. I got about half-way and did not like the book. I liked the author's style of writing and I liked the main character, but I did not like the plot lines. I am willing to try again this summer, but I am done for now.
Goodreads Rating (with 778,706 ratings): 4.36 stars
My Rating: 2 stars 

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
 The Outsiders

Goodreads says:
According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for "social") has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he's always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers--until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy's skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.

I say:
I reread this book each year with my 8th graders. This year we went through it as a read-aloud. I loved experiencing this book all over again with them. It's the first year I have read the book aloud, but I think I have started a new tradition. The characters are incredible and so well-written. The plot line has some major twists and turns, some you see coming and some you don't. The book makes you reexamine yourself, your friends/family, and the way you treat people in society. It is truly amazing! The fact that the author was 16 and a high school student when she wrote it, just makes me love it more. 

Goodreads Rating (with 391,537 ratings): 3.99 stars (What?!?!?! This is crazy low!!)
My Rating: 5 stars

Yours and Mine by Debbie Macomber
 Yours and Mine

Goodreads says:
A New York Times Bestselling Author, Joanna Parsons is a single mother who insists that marriage is an experience she doesn't plan to repeat. But her eleven-year-old daughter, Kristen, has a different scenario in mind - and it involves Tanner Lund, her best friend's dad.

I say:
I saw where this book was going from page 1, but it didn't bother me. Debbie Macomber has such a way with characters and plot lines. I really enjoy her writing style and this book did not disappoint. I checked it out from the library and would not buy it, but I would consider a reread later.

Goodreads Rating (with 101 ratings): 3.90 stars
My Rating: 4 stars

I have two other books that I am currently reading, but I will save those for a month's recap when they are actually finished.

Have you read any of these books? Can you suggest some more for me? I feel like I am in a reading rut and I need some help breaking out!

Happy Reading,

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Her Time

This one was hard for me to decide what I would write about. I started and erased this four times before deciding on this one.

T is for Time. There never seems to be enough of it in my world. I am constantly saying that I need more of it. When I write my "Currently" posts at the beginning of the month, I almost always say I need more time to get things done.


A perfect day for me would include time to:
  • work (because I have to and it pays the bills) 
  • get everything checked off my to-do list for that day at work 
  • hang out with Sean 
  • clean/straighten something in my house 
  • check Facebook and Instagram 
  • read blogs and have time to respond to at least a few 
  • knit 
  • watch a TV show or two 
  • play/cuddle with Alex 
  • do my Devotional reading and spend time in prayer 
  • go to sleep at a time that would mean I am rested for the next day

**I'm not asking for much in 24 hours am I?**

What gets in my way? Well, a myriad of things.
  • At work I tend to be too social. I have the gift of gab as my grandmother would say. I come by it honestly (seriously, just ask both my parents!) but it does get in the way of me focusing on the task at hand. But let's be honest, who wants to sit at a desk working every minute of every day when you could be chatting and having a little fun?
  • I am also a horrible procrastinator. My to-do list helps, but I am a procrastinator.
  • At home I am so tired and worn out from work that I struggle to find energy to do anything.
  • Also, at home, I struggle to find the motivation to get up off the couch to do anything. 
  • After a long and stressful day, hiding from the work in my tote bag is a defense mechanism. It keeps me sane and puts me behind for the next day - which is an ever-turning and vicious cycle.

So how do I break free and harness the hours of the day that I have so I can be more productive and, let's be honest, happier? *sigh* I honestly don't know. I know this has to feel a little bit like a let-down. I have not figured this one out yet. 
  • I tell myself to be less chatty and more focused at work, but I genuinely like the people I work with so chatting with them is fun for me. 
  • I don't know how to give less than 100% at work so that I have something left when I get home. 
  • The procrastinating thing is something I am working on, but it is a slow process. I want to change that about myself - a lot!

Here's what I am hoping. I am hoping that someone out there has a solution or an answer to my dilemma. How do you manage your hours? How do you make everything fit? 

Happy Hump Day - and Thank You, in advance, for all the advice and help! I really value all of your opinions and thoughts. I come to you for help because I know it will be good! Thank you!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

His - Living in America - Shopping Centres / Malls

When I lived in Australia it was possible to go to a shopping centre, park the car once, and get everything I need from one place. In America that is near impossible unless the Super Walmart happens to have everything you want in stock (which is rare as it seems like they are always out of at least one item that you want).

A typical shopping centre in Australia has a similar layout to malls in Australia, but they serve a different purpose. The main function of an American mall is mainly for discretionary spending including clothing, shoes, entertainment and restaurants. In Australia, a shopping centre serves the same purpose, but also fulfills everyday shopping needs as well. Read on as I explain how: 

Shopping trolleys at a mall? In Australia that is not unusual.
Supermarkets: Every shopping centre has at least one supermarket as an anchor store. As you enter the shopping centre you will see many people pushing their trolley full of groceries out to their car. Supermarkets in our part of America have their own building and parking lot and are not inside a mall.

Underground Parking: I am not a fan of grocery shopping at the best of times, but I really hate it when it is pouring down rain. This is not as big an issue in many shopping centres in Australia as most offer underground parking. Many shopping centres have built a couple of parking levels below the stores so patrons can park undercover and not get wet when it is raining outside. While this is convenient it can also be tricky to find a parking spot on a weekend when the weather is nasty outside.

One Stop Shopping: A trip to a shopping centre in Australia can truly be a one stop for all of your needs. In addition to supermarkets it is common to have a chemist store (which is the same thing as a drug store), a butcher store, a bakery, a Newsagent (similar to a Newsstand/book store that you find in most American airports), and a post office. Many of the larger centres also have at least one large discount department store such a K-Mart, Target or Big W (similar to Wal-Mart). Many of them still have travel agencies which is something I haven't seen in a U.S mall in many years. It really was set up that you could park once and then go from store to store and get everything you could possibly need which was always nice.

Source - The parking ticket machine at Charlestown Square in Australia.

In America if you needed to go to the post office, the grocery store and the drug store you would have to make at least two stops and they would probably be miles apart and on opposite sides of a busy road. Although I have greater choice and flexibility in store hours (most stores in Australia close by 9pm) in America, I do miss being able to stop at one place and getting all of my shopping needs done in one place. I don't go to the mall nearly as much in America as they really don't have the services that I require on most days. It would be great if they had supermarkets, butcher shops and post offices so I could have one stop shopping again but I don't think it will ever happen.

There are pros and cons for each. In Australia it is convenient to get all of your shopping done in one place, but it can be hard to find a parking spot on busy days and especially when it is raining. In America it is often easier to find a parking spot and the stores have better hours, but you have to make several stops if you have more than one store to visit. 

Which option appeals to you more?

Monday, April 21, 2014

His and Her Travel Review: Rainbow Sands Beach on Fraser Island, Australia

Mondays are World-Wide Travel Days on our blog. We love sharing all the places we have been and all the fun things we have experienced. Finding a "R" spot was a little tricky, but, lucky for us, we had one.

Rainbow Sands is a small section of sand dunes on Fraser Island in Australia. Fraser island is the world's largest sand island off the coast of Queensland, about 120 miles north of Brisbane. There are many things to see on the island and it is a unique experience. We booked a day tour so we could see all of the main sights in one day and it was definitely the best way to see the island. 

One of the stops was the Rainbow Sands and it was one of the highlights of the tour that I was most looking forward to. I have seen many different colours of sand on beaches around the world but I have never seen multiple colours in one small spot. It was really interesting to see all of the different colours that were piled up on the sand dunes. At first it looked like a regular cliff by the beach, but once I remembered that the island was all made from sand it made this formation even more impressive. I have no clue how all of these different colours of sand ended up in one place, but it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. We only spent a few minutes here before we headed off to our next stop on the tour, but it is something that I will never forget.

Fraser Island was a beautiful place! Sean's mum (hey hon - did you see I spelled it right?!?) really wanted to visit the Island and I didn't see the appeal. I tagged along, however, because I wasn't going to argue with a native. She was so very right about everything! The Rainbow Sands are massive, massive sand dunes that are a rainbow of colors. I have never seen anything like it. I have seen sand dunes before, but never ones that were craggy and so rock-like. And certainly never ones where the sand had turned colors. The pictures do not do it justice. Promise me - if you are ever in this part of the world - you will go to Fraser Island! You will not be sorry.

Below are some more photos of the Rainbow Sands:

Its impressive how high these sand cliffs rise above the beach!

Incredible height and cragginess. (Is that a word? It must be because there is no red squiggly line.) They look more like mountains than sand.

I don't understand how this sand can stack so high like this but my sandcastles always fell over when they were more than a few inches high.

As you got closer, you could see more clearly that it was sand. I reached out an touched a spot to be sure my eyes were not deceiving me. I expected hard rock, but found soft sand.

Some of the trees are even growing on the sand cliffs.

Have you ever been to Fraser Island or seen something similar to this in your travels?

Happy Traveling,

Sunday, April 20, 2014

His and Her Recap: L-Q

Sundays are a day off for the Blogging Challenge - so we thought we would recap our letters of the week. If you missed any posts, this is a great chance to catch up.

 L - Lone Pine Sanctuary: Amanda shared about her experience at a wildlife park in Australia and what it was like to hold a koala.

 M - Matilda Translated: Sean translated one of Australia's most famous songs so its easier to understand as it has a lot of Australian slang in it.

N - Nibblers and other good food: When we are on the go and want a quick bite to eat these are some of our favourite places to get a quick meal.
O - On the Tube: Amanda's DVR is normally filled with many different shows. Come see what she is watching and recommending right now.

P - Puppy Talk:  Alex, our dog decided to hijack one of the computers while we were at work and decided to publish his very first blog post. Come check out what he has to say.

Q - Quilt in Progress: Sean is making his first quilt. Come check out the story behind it and what progress has been made so far.

We resume our A-Z challenge on Monday with the letter R. Which of this week's posts were your favourite?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

His: Super Saturday Snapshots - Quilt in Progress!

Our A-Z Blogging Challenge continues. We hope you are enjoying these posts. In the beginning we worried that we wouldn't have anything to write about on "Q" day, but thankfully I got some sewing done and we have something to share.

Today we are linking up with Melinda at West Metro Mommy for Super Saturday Snapshots.

I recently started sewing late last year and blogged briefly about some of the projects that I have completed in a previous post(Click here to read that post.) I have had a lot of fun making dresses, drawstring bags and other projects but I am also working on my very first quilt. I got my interest in sewing because I wanted to start quilting and even though I started off with a fairly simple design the quilt took a lot longer than I expected. The quilt will a gift to my niece Bennett and is big enough that she will be able use it for a few years at least as it will fit on a toddler bed. Below are some photos from what I have done so far.

The first two squares being sewn together. Just 58 more squares to go!

Sewing another row to the front of the quilt.

I kept the quilting pattern simple as this was my first attempt. It is wavy lines with little leaves every so often.

I was hoping to have it completed by now but every step is taking far longer than I ever imagined. I have about half of the quilt done so far, so all I have left is to quilt the other half and sew on the border. I am also working on some other projects but I hope to have it done soon so I can share the pictures of the finished quilt soon. Have you ever made a quilt or wanted to?


Friday, April 18, 2014

(His and Her) Puppy Talk

P is for puppy!!! We love our puppy and we want to celebrate him on the blog today.

My parents have been writing this blog for a while now. I hear them talking about what to post and what to say and it all sounded interesting. I decided to highjack mom's computer and write my own post. This is gonna be fun!

This is Mom's favorite picture of me.
Hello! My name is Alex. I am a 12 year old beagle/lab mix. Mom and Dad got me from a local pound when I was around one year old. They celebrate my birthday in June - my "gotcha" day.

I love cuddling and snuggling with mommy and daddy!
My previous owners were not very nice to me so I have a few little issues. I am very nervous around strangers and I don't like to visit new places. I hate vacuum cleaners and mops/brooms. I am also very afraid of garbage bags. It makes Mom sad to think about what those evil people did to me. I've pretty much forgotten by now.

Surveying the outside world.
My favorite thing to do is play outside. I love to run around our backyard and talk (Dad calls it making a lot of noise) with the neighbor dogs. We stand on each side of the fence and just talk and talk. If Mom and Dad get annoyed, I have to come in. If I come the first time I am called I get a treat. Yummy!

My favorite way to sleep is with a blanket that I can scrunch up and use as a pillow.
My favorite treats are dried liver treats from the pet store. I will do just about anything for those. My other favorite foods might surprise you. I love Chick-Fil-A Waffle Fries. I will beg for the fries but walk away when they are eating the chicken. I also love the carrots that come in the Chinese food my mom orders. They are so yummy!

After dinner, I always lick out my dog food can. Don't worry, I've never cut myself. I just like getting all the little bits of juice out of the can before Dad throws it away.

My least favorite thing in the whole world is a bath. I make Mommy sad because she says I am pitiful when I get a bath. I don't know what that means but baths mean being wet and I don't like being wet. I also have to stay outside while I dry and sometimes I want to come inside. Maybe you guys could talk to my mom and dad and tell them that they should stop giving me baths? I would be forever grateful!

Do you have a dog? What kind? If you don't have a dog, I recommend going to the shelter to get one. My life was changed when Mom and Dad picked me. You could change another dog's life by choosing them.

Happy Dog Days,

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