Current Read

Since we don’t have any international trips on the books right now, I’m keeping my love for travel alive by diving into this beauty. New to paperback this summer, Beautiful Ruins caught my eye as soon as it hit the shelves. I had seen a magazine feature or two on it and knew it would be just what I needed to kick my last trip of the year blues. 
Tell me, what are you reading right now?
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MWF seeking BFF

I’ve had several people take interest in my most recent read, so I thought I should provide a little clarity about it & maybe even a little review. 
MWF seeking BFF is a book that I had my eye on since it has been out. I came across it shortly after our wedding in 2010, by seeing its praise in SELF & from authors of interest (to me), like Gretchen Rubin.
During this time I was new to the MWF category & actually seeking a BFF. My friends were shifting from the group of people who I had been hanging out with since high school (and a few from college) to individual friends that I had more aligned interests with. Some relationships from my past were deepening (and thus, my best friend emerged) and some were fading way. 
So it was really no surprise that this book was very appealing to me, though I never got around to taking the plunge of reading it until my book club decided on it. While it didn’t get rave reviews from that group, I still decided to give it a try. 
The story is about a newlywed whose moved from Manhattan to Chicago & while she has two best friends & plenty of other satisfying friendships in her life, she is looking for friends in her new-ish town. With my recent move to Fort Collins, it seemed totally fitting.
So while this is not really a “self-help” book on how to find friends in a new town, it does provide many ideas for meeting new people, if that is not something that comes naturally to you. The author tries many things (both successfully & unsuccessfully), including:
Asking out-of-town friends to set her up with their in-town-friends
Rekindling any connections that she never followed through on: college acquaintances that live in Chicago to a nice girl she connected with in a cooking class awhile ago
Taking out a want ad (yes, really)
Signing up for special interest groups (cooking class, religious gatherings, etc.)
Sparking conversations with strangers
Joining friend meeting groups, like meetup.com
I will admit, I’ve never had trouble meeting new people & converting them into new friends. It just comes naturally to me. But this book did make me view friendships differently & reminded me that aligned interests can influence a surface level conversation with an acquantance to go much deeper.
As a MWF new to her city, I’ve found this book interesting & mildly entertaining. The author throws in some interesting stats about friendships and has a great overview about all aspects of friendships, in general. I definitely took more away from this book about the value, life-cycle & different types of friendships than I originally thought I would. 
I would love to know your thoughts on this book if you’ve read it too!

Reading List

Reading is one of my absolute favorite things to do & this year I’ve committed to reading at least 20 books (although secretly I’m aspiring to 24 – two a month). I’m also trying to make it through all of the unread books off my shelves, since it seems I have a little habit of buying books in bulk & not reading them. So I’m close to halfway through my reading list and excited to jump into some summer reading in about a month.

If you haven’t already, take a look at some of the books I’ve read so far this year & my (shortened) thoughts on each of them. 

And here’s what I’ll be packing for my Florida vacation/Vegas conference (back to back) in June:
I’ve heard that they are making this book into a movie, with Charlize Theron as the lead character. Speaking of books being made into movies, I’m dying to see The Great Gatsby this week.  
I would love to know what is on your reading list these days. Leave your comments below!

Where We Belong

I am a woman-obsessed. With all things Emily Giffin, that is. I just finished her latest book, “Where We Belong,” and have been INSPIRED by this must read.
The book is about love, family and finding yourself, in the midst of chaos. It’s one of those books that you stay up late to read & then dream about. One that you crack open during your lunch hour, no matter how hectic your day is. It’s the kind of book that you try to read while cramming breakfast down your throat in the morning, even if you can only get a page – or a paragraph – in.
It’s a book that inspired me to take a look into my own life & my own family & love situations.

My reading realizations:
1. I wouldn’t be satisfied with anything other than a messy love.
I’ve often envyed couples who meet as adults. “How easy,” I think, “when you both meet at a point in your life when you know who you are & you both have your stuff together. You get the opportunity to see if who you are & what you want, fits with who they are & what they want. You don’t just fall blindly in love, you make the decision with your heart and your head.”
Now, I realize my idea of “grown up dating” may not always be reality, but it’s what I picture, since I’ve never gone on a date w/anyone post-college, besides my husband.
Where We Belong made me look at our marriage completely differently.
Having a history, with all of the ups & downs, good & bad that come with that, is real.

Here we are at our high school, where it all began. : )

No wonder in movies like, “Sweet Home Alabama” I get torn between the perfect guy who takes the girl to a private opening at Tiffany’s to pick out an engagement ring & the high school sweetheart who once was a screw up, but has grown into a good man.
Or The Notebook, where Allie is choosing between good on paper & the person that was meant for her.

This makes me realize that I picked my very own Noah.

And I’m able to have peace with the non-perfectness of our relationship. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that your partner has seen it all from you & knows you almost better than you know yourself. And that’s something that can only come with time & trials. History.

2. Relationships don’t have to look one certain way.
Some of you know, most of you don’t, but I met my biological father when I was 23 years old. Three short years ago. It’s not something that I discuss often, and I’m not quite sure I’ve even wrapped my mind completely around it yet, but reading Where We Belong made me realize that our relationship does not have to look like the typical father-daughter relationship. Because it’s not.

Here we are, about a month after we met.

Sometimes we get so focused on doing things the way we think they “should” be done, without really realizing that we can do things ANY WAY WE WANT. It’s such an “ah ha” moment when that realization hits us & we begin to shape our live & relationships in a way the works best for us.

Overall, Where We Belong was a true keeper. I haven’t met a person who did absolutely love it. I don’t think I’ve given much away about the book, so you should go check it out. I hope you love it as much as I did.

How to Love an American Man

Don’t you love the feeling you get when you finish up a really good book? Contentment, excitement, reflection & after all of that is over – the hunger to start something new & fresh.
That’s how I’m feeling as we wrap up our second book club in which we discussed “How to Love an American Man.” Last night’s was a bit different though – we had the chance to SKYPE w/the author, Kristine Gasbarre. How cool is that!?!
Here we all are, Skyping w/Kristine:
During our first book club we had seven ladies, but this month our numbers almost doubled at 12 in attendance. This makes a big difference in the atmosphere & focus so, for now, we’ve decided to max our group out at 12.
We were definitely excited to be Skyping  with Kristine halfway through the discussion – so that amounted to lots of chatter as well!
How to Love an American Man…
The overall consensous of the group was very positive. A couple of girls said that it was one of the best books they’ve ever read & everyone agreed that her writing is so relatable. As Kristine later explained, the story is much more about womanhood & discovering how to be who you are than about how to fall in love & be in a relationship. Which, in itself is the whole point, right? 
Kristine Gasbarre…
If you didn’t completely fall in love w/the book to begin with, you did once you met & fell in love with the author.
Kristine chatted with us post-walk w/her newish puppy & fit right in with our group. Talking to her was just like talking to one of the girls. She is so down to earth, true to her convictions & like she said, “nothing if not an open book.”
Here she is again on Skype:

We had such a fun evening getting to know Kristine. Here we all are together:
On another note – something else exciting has happened to our humble, little book club. Kristine connect me with Oprah Winfrey Network TV via Twitter & they will be sending us 12 author signed copies of Wild, by Cheryl Strayed! This is the first book that Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 will be reading. So cool!
To make it even better, Kristine Gasbarre will be reading the book & Skyping in to dicsuss with our book club!
  
Gotta love technology & social media. Until next time!

Book Club

This week I hosted my very first book club. SUPER EXCITING!
After multiple different conversations with multiple different girlfriends, I decided to bite the bullet, put my inner-nerd out there & start a book club.
I love reading & so do many of the women I hang out with. I’m always reccommending books to others, discussing what I’ve read or am currently reading & trying to influence my non-reading friends to get addicted to the habit too.

I’ve got a passion for books, baby! And Cory calls me his little bookworm.

It was time to start a little book club.
I’m happy to report that all went well. Better than well, actually. It was super fun!
We had seven ladies take part in the evening & the cool thing was that few knew each other prior to Thursday. We had a couple of professional connections & one prior bible study connection, but all of the girls came out of pure love of reading. Which, in my opinion, made all the difference.
We read Emily Giffin’s “Heart of the Matter”, her fifth book published to date. Several of us had read at least some, if not all, of her other books & are a big fans of her writing, largely because it is so relatable. Her sixth book comes out on July 24th, 2012 (my second wedding anniversary!). Heads up to potential book clubers – we’re considering reading this for our August book club – it’s called “Where We Belong.” Check out her website: http://www.emilygiffin.com/

We munched on enchiladas (here’s the recipe I got off of Pinterest: http://pearls-handcuffs-happyhour.blogspot.com/2010/05/cream-cheese-greatness.html), lots of delicious dips & sipped some sweet sangria (made w/tequila – another Pinterest gem: http://thefauxmartha.com/2010/06/05/sangria/) while getting to know one another.
And then we got down to book business. We had about an hour long conversation, losely based off of some questions I picked up from the author’s reading guide (you can find that on her website, or here: http://www.emilygiffin.com/books/heartofthematter_guide.php), but as all worthy groups go – those questions lead us into all kinds of discussion.  
Overall, everyone had rave reviews on the book & I think enjoyed the evening.
L-R: Raquel, Amanda, Bonnie, Kate, myself, Jennifer & Kristine
Awesome ladies, awesome evening, awesome book club!
 Check out our Facebook event for our next meeting date & book. We’ve already had more than a handful of girls ask to be added-on to the Facebook event group (you should be able to add yourself or a friend on w/out admin approval, by the way) so please feel free to join if you’re interested!
If you love books like we do, we would love to have you!

The Happiness Project

One of my favorite hobbies is reading. I have loved to read & write since I was a child. Therefore, I think it is time for a book review.
One of my best friends, Alex & I decided at the end of 2010 that we would like to start a book club. Then we discussed how to go about organizing a book club: invite others, set a date & time, make a group decision on what book we would begin…And to be honest, we can be very lazy.
So this is how our two-person “Exclusive Book Club” began.
I have a list of 37 books on my current reading list & an additional 30 books sitting on my shelf  at home waiting to be read. And let’s not forget the list of authors that I adore or am interested in & will read anything they write (there are only six on that list right now). Yes, I realize that this is probably unhealthy. But it’s one of the best obsessions one could have, agreed?
So in January of 2011 we decided to tackle this book:
What initially attracted me to this book was that Gretchen described herself as “happy”; she was living in NYC, working as a writer (one of my fantasies – actually after the world met Carrie in Sex & the City, I’m sure that life became a fantasy for many of us), married to a wonderful husband & had two little girls.
Her life was everything she could have dreamed of. But she felt like she could appreciate it more. She felt like she could be happier, not by having more things or life being different, just in the way she treated life.
I too, felt like my life is on track with my dreams: I have a college degree, I married my high school sweetheart, we own a home together close to my family, we’ve both made some solid friends over the years, I have a good job that I love. I wanted to take it all in & appreciate it to the fullest.
So Gretchen embarked on a year of trying to be happier & Alex & I followed, month by month.

 She divided her life out into 11 areas and made goals each month, based on the area she was focusing on for that month (December was used to practice everything).
Gretchen had 3-5 goals for each month (this WAS her full time job, as she is an author). Some of her goals included: go to sleep earlier, fight right, launch a blog, acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings, take time to be silly, don’t gossip, indulge in a modest splurge, keep a gratitude notebook, master a new technology, stimulate the mind in new ways and laugh out loud.   
We didn’t end up doing a full-on “Happiness Project”, like Gretchen, but it was fun to read her experience & take away pieces of info. that we now incorporate into our daily lives. For Christmas, I even got us “Happiness Project” Daily Desk Calendars, to help remind us of all of the things we read about the year before. 
Alex & I on her birthday this past December.
So if you’re looking for a fun, little project (okay – it’s not that little) to take on in an effort to improve yourself, this book is great. You can take the outline & make it completely your own, or like Alex & I, not begin a project at all, simply take away ideas from Gretchen’s project.
Happy Reading!