52 Books

I’ve always been a reader. I have memories as a child of loving a book about a pie that rolled out the window while it was cooling, and just kept rolling and rolling. I read it before I could actually read – from memory of it being read to me so many times. I then read it to anyone who would listen, over and over.

I assume the same of any reader, but to me growing up,  reading was a way to pass the time. While my family worked at my grandparents commercial laundromat I read about an elf in stripes. As a bored teenager I read dozens of Babysitters Club books and set out to start my own babysitting club.

I never measured my reading, and after High School and College without assigned books I would go months without reading, and then pick up a book here and there. in 2012 I decided to start a measured goal of reading 12 books a year, one book a month. I reached my goal in 2012, 2013 and 2015 (most years reading more than the 12).

I noticed through the years I got much faster at reading – a mixture of that, and rushing to avoid a late library fee that found me reading 4 books in January of 2016. I began to wonder if I could keep this up for an entire year. 52 books? I set out to try. I didn’t reach 52, but I came close. I am beyond proud, I read 4 times as much as any year before and learned so much. It was a year of so much growing, and traveling through all the stories I read.

Here is what I read in 2016 (Each book is linked for your convenience) :

1. The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff

2. Life Is So Good by George Dawson

3. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

4. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

5. Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou

6. The Success Principles by Jack Canfield

7. Millenials@Work by Chip Espinoza

8. Born Free by Joy Adamson

9. A Song Flung Up to Heaven by Maya Angelou

10. Strong Looks Better Naked by Khloe Kardashian

11. What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey

12. Just Kids by Patti Smith

13. Cravings by Chrissy Teigen

14. What Are You Hungry For? by Deepak Chopra

15. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

16. How to Estimate With Rsmeans by Saleh A. Mubarak

17. Spinster by Kate Bolick

18. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

19. Beyond the Sling by Mayim Bialik

20. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

21. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

22. Rising Strong by Brene Brown

23. The Body Book by Cameron Diaz

24. Writing My Wrongs by Shaka Senghor

25. Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

26. O’s Little Guide to Finding Your True Purpose by The Oprah Magazine

27. The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People by David Niven

28. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

29. The Longevity Book by Cameron Diaz

30. Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It by Elizabeth Gilbert

31. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

32. Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

33. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

34. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

35. 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz

36. Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet by Kellyann Petrucci

37. Balancing in Heels by Kristin Cavallari

38. The Signature  of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

39. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

40. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

41. Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi

42. The Art of Communicating by Thich Nhat Hanh

43. The 13th Disciple by Deepak Chopra

44. Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

45. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

46. Marley and Me by John Grogan

47. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (My second time reading this)

48. The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder

49. The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

50. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

51. Commonwealth by Ann Patchet

Books I started in 2016 but haven’t finished:

  1. The Alchemist by Paul Coelho (My second time reading this)
  2. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  3. How Not To Die by Michael Greger
  4. I Thought It Was Just Me by Brene Brown

Audio Books I listened to:

  1. I Am the New Black by Tracy Morgan
  2. Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon
  3. Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman

To more traveling through reading in 2017!

Traveling is.

a state of mind.

It’s eating a home made version of our New Orleans favorite meals on Fat Tuesday, with traditional cocktails AND dessert. (homemade by M)

31e25f0a-f86a-4111-add1-d7194ca4bb13

It’s reading a British novel during my lunch break. Imagining myself riding the train with the character, the way I did on my college graduation trip to the UK.

 

It’s going to a  Museum for an exhibit from Germany, that has been all around the world, then eating a feast at a local restaurant.

 

Traveling is everything.

Love is.

morningThe sound of a tiny sleepy yell of “Tia?!” – searching the room until discovering us in a mess of pillows next to the bed. Laying together in our PJs watching cartoons and laughing out loud when “baby brother” makes drool infused noises to get our attention.

Happy Valentine’s Day tiny beans.

Christmas.

christmas

My favorite memories from Christmas as a child are:

  • Always being given the turkey leg because I was the youngest.
  • Putting the baby Jesus in the nativity scene at midnight.
  • The grandma and grandpa barbies my grandparents got me. The giant box had a grandma Barbie, a grandpa Ken, a girl and a boy, I think the girl would be “Kelly.” Back then at least, “Skipper” was a teenage barbie, but “Kelly” was the younger one. It also came with McDonald’s mini happy meals and birthday hats. I loved McDonald’s back then as well, so this was the most epic Christmas gift I could receive.
  • Random people at Christmas. I didn’t realize this until I got older, but I remember people’s friends (of my Mom’s, or my Aunt’s  ETC.) coming to Christmas dinner last minute. My Grandma or my Mom looking through their gifts before everyone arrived to see what they could re-gift to this last minute guest. Now that I’m older I realize whatever the reason this last minute guest was with us probably meant a sad or unpleasant family situation. My family never wanted anyone to go without at least having a gift to open. The effort I saw as a child to put something together for others means everything to me now.
  • My grandmother’s decorations. Besides speaking several languages, having birthed 7 children, being a great cook, a world traveler and being and staying truly in love with my grandfather since they were teenagers, my grandmother was an incredible artist. She could paint, draw, sew, knit, you name it. She made things for us until the moment she died, beautiful dolls, quilts, clothing – but my favorite were her decorations. Not store bought, hand made with such intricate details. My absolute favorite was a toilet seat cover with Santa on the top, and when you open the lid to use the toilet, Santa is on the inside part but with his hands over his eyes.
  • My grandpa’s mini foods. I still love anything mini, I remember one Christmas specifically my grandpa making mini sopes, one of my favorite food’s in miniature. They were so cute, and so delicious.
  • Making the holiday menu. I didn’t help much with cooking as a child, but I was always on menu duties. My grandpa or my mom would write out what the holiday menu was going to be on a note pad and I would create  one for each person, on nice paper, with fancy colorful pens. They were then carefully placed on each person’s table setting.
  • Three Kings Day! I’ve never been into Santa, but the much less talked about or celebrated 3 Kings have always been my thing. I loved keeping our Christmas tree up until after January 6th, cleaning my shoes and waking up to one last gift for the holidays. Then the best part, eating the “Rosca de Reyes” and waiting to see who got a plastic baby in their slice. In 2012 my grandmother saved me a piece of “Rosca” in her freezer so I could eat it the next time I visited. I got to eat it when I visited for the 80th birthday that same year.

M & I have a tradition of doing non tangible gifts for Christmas, experiences or events. This year we gave each other a trip to New York City. We’ve both been there, but never during Christmas time when the whole city is decked out in Christmas lights!

0819af09-07ed-4fce-aea8-fbd419651950

One of my favorite nights we walked through Bryant Park to people watch. The Song ‘Christmas’ (Baby Please Come Home) was playing loudly, there was a giant tree, lights and people everywhere. We watched the ice skaters and spotted several little children learning to ice skate by holding and pushing to giant penguins for support. It was such a cute, simple, Christmas time moment.

 

At 230 Fifth – a rooftop bar with front row view of the Empire State Building, we tried to stay warm with their hot spiked drinks. One which inspired our much better version of their  Vodka Peppermint Hot Chocolate, with M’s homemade honey, vanilla & cinnamon whipped cream – which was a huge hit with my family on Christmas eve.

The end.

New Orleans – The Big Easy

2a29b12c-1011-4716-88ab-53134d316e383f969885-9310-4f58-a10a-a673041f8b9f

A little bit of France, a little bit of the South, a little bit Vegas all mixed together makes the magical city that is New Orleans.

M & I visited during Thanksgiving, and it was EVERYTHING. Absolutely one of our favorite trips.

There is nothing I can write to do this place justice, but I’ll try.

8ee145ab-2e4b-4b43-8a94-2236bc07d248

The food. It was even better than we imagined. We arrived on Thanksgiving day. All restaurants are open with special Thanksgiving menus, there is a big parade, and there are people walking around the French Quarter. We ate at Ralph Brennan’s Red Fish Grill. A Southern  Thanksgiving buffet feast including Turducken gumbo, cajun turkey, shrimp and grits, freshly chucked oysters. A guy in a turkey suit ran around making sure everyone was taken care of. I won’t describe every meal, but this was the perfect “alternative” Thanksgiving meal we could have had eating at a restaurant. So fun, so us.

8fbcfeb0-081f-4c00-8011-8d3f735dda04

Continuing with food – oysters. Every menu listed a variety of oysters. I thought a raw oyster is already perfect as is, so why ruin it by grilling it,  or frying it. I was so gladly wrong. Very wrong. Charbroiled oysters with garlic and herbs served with french bread, fried oysters with buffalo sauce and blue cheese on top, oysters cooked in a mushroom sauce, fried oysters in a po’ boy, oysters Rockefeller. All amazing. We still got several dozens of raw oysters throughout the entire trip, but we tried every variation of the cooked ones as well, and oh my goodness they were all heaven.

3e7e047a-a114-49be-bfb9-f163bfe47d30

Beignets, yes we had them every day. At Cafe Du Monde with a cafe au lait. An order to go on our way to sight see. Some from their competition to see if they measure up, on and on. So amazing!

044bc8fb-5999-434b-9d0f-30c5936e375d

(Where had red beans and rice been my whole life? Incredible.)

Having such great food in California, I feared things like beignets would taste the same as the one’s I’ve had. The climate difference and the fact that they are below sea level actually has a big part in the ‘only in New Orleans unique taste’ when it comes to anything with bread. These beignets were one of a kind delicious!

8b2117f4-ad27-44a9-bc58-960b40df3fd2.jpg

We tried Muffuletas from central grocery, an Italian deli, and walked across the train tracks to sit on a bench overlooking the Mississippi River while we ate them. Everything was such an experience, these giant sandwiches were so good!

This was such a great weekend to visit because the weather was still very warm, but the Christmas decorations and lights were up. The city is so beautiful already, but adorned with lights – was so cool.

5be8caab-7795-4620-943e-55ff12a0da00

We went to so many interesting bars. The cocktail is said to have been originated here. We had great drinks, at a carousel rotating bar in our historic hotel, a French 75 where it was invented ETC. Every place and drink had a story!

The places. The people.

We did a walking ghost and vampire tour while drinking a local beer. Drinking is not only allowed on the streets, it’s actually highly encouraged. To the point that if you don’t finish a drink at a restaurant, they will give it to you in a to go cup. So fun.

fa39a965-40d2-4c6d-8362-85ba93d42948

(Here I am standing in front of Delphine LaLaurie’s home)

We visited a Katrina museum which was extremely moving, sad and informative, it made us love the city even more. We both got out of a cab once and immediately said the same thing. After hearing our drivers story, of how him and his family got out of the city during the hurricane we were almost in tears. He also told us about his grand-kids and the time he drove Dwyane Wade around & he happily spoke to his granddaughter on the phone.

We visited two beautiful plantations, with so much history, and so many beautiful trees (my favorite part).

238e3ae1-15f0-4269-84ca-11fd1e45d78c (1)

0eae119f-e0bb-456b-b732-ee87294c95e7

We walked around their “Central Park” – New Orleans City Park, which is twice the size of Central Park, it has botanical gardens, sculpture gardens, fields, an amusement park, a carousel, a lake, too much to do in one day, even a cafe that sells – beignets!

e8ef1c43-0893-4d52-950e-d82bf1fd5312

We went on a Cemetery tour in the oldest Cemetery in the city, in a horse drawn carriage. We toured the French Quarter on the way, and being on the carriage made you feel like you were back in time. I loved all the colors, and imagining what it looked like without cars. The Cemetery was beautiful, we saw Marie Laveau’s grave (Voodoo Queen) and learned all kinds of facts about what it took to be buried there. If you research this Cemetery it says to be the most haunted in the world, I didn’t feel scared, I loved walking around and looking at all the graves.

764ac6e2-1722-4850-8f97-ff766b108ff7

In fact, I didn’t feel scared anywhere in New Orleans, all of it was so fun – except for one time in the middle of the night in our hotel – which is also known to be haunted, as one of the oldest Hotels in the French Quarter – the Monteleone, I woke up in the middle of the night hearing weird noises. Then I fell back asleep.

40d36d42-93fe-48db-a791-6ad22fa39c19

We visited the oldest Catholic Church in the United States, as you exit there are people dancing, playing music or asking to read your palm at Jackson Square. So many different colorful stories anywhere you turned.

Loved every minute of this trip.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Podcasts I Listen to While Straightening My Hair

Serial

My favorite podcast ever (and the rest of the world’s). I love anything crime, but this takes it to another level. First season is about a guy in jail for the murder of his high school girlfriend. The podcast is put together flawlessly, with music, and actual phone calls with the guy in jail. You can’t listen to an episode and not get hooked. Second season just started, a totally different kind of story, but really great as well.

Criminal

Of course I started listening to this because of the title. This podcast is amazing because it follows different stories, so you get something new with every episode. My favorite part is that they’re not always stories of the criminal, but many times from a different perspective. Like the latest episode is about a diver that works for the police to recover evidence thrown in bodies of water.

Lore

This podcast moves from crimes more into scary, urban legends, horror etc. What I like about it is that the guy researches supernatural or scary stories and kind of gives you a history on the topic and then a few stories or accounts on the subject as well.

Magic Lessons

Someone told me before I went on my trip around the world in 2009 I had to read “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read it while on my trip, in one single sitting. This book spoke to me, I highlighted, folded pages, re-read, quoted, etc. I’ve been a fan of her ever since. Hearing her first Ted made me love her even more. Of course when I heard she had a podcast I knew I would love it. Not sure if it will continue, but it went along with promoting her new book “Big Magic” – she helps people who are stuck creatively, these are the “magic lessons.”

Dear Sugar Radio

Before I went on a long trip to Australia, New Zealand and Bali a few years ago I asked friends for book recommendations. I ended up loading my Kindle with the Hunger Game Books and “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. An incredibly moving book about her journey hiking the pacific trail alone. This is her podcast with someone else, where  people write “Dear Abby” type of letters – but instead it’s “dear sugar.” I didn’t love it right away, but now I get so excited when a new episode comes out. Her voice is so soothing, and their advice – even when I don’t agree with it always forces me to think outside of my norm. On one of the first episodes Cheryl called Elizabeth Gilbert for advice, and I thought – o.m.g. of course these two women are friends.

Missing Maura Murray

So I have a love hate with this podcast. Without being mean I think the hosts are odd, and not in a good way. I think at times they are extremely disrespectful, entitled, clueless and silly. However, the case in which they are obsessed with and covering (with no journalism, investigative background, or being linked as family or friends) is fascinating. A girl about my age has been missing for 12 years and no one has any idea what happened to her.

Women of the Hour

Lena Dunham, writer and actress on the TV show called “Girls” which I binged watched this year, created this podcast. Also to promote her book, it is so well made. Perfect editing, music, etc. Known as a vocal feminist she brings up really interesting issues in every episode, has lots of interesting guests, and some really funny stories.

ahair

THANK YOU

Of course without a doubt my biggest blessing is love. My loved ones are what drive my entire life. Of course I am beyond thankful for my health.  I don’t take it for granted every day my body allows me to walk around and explore. For those things I am eternally grateful.

It’s all the other every day details I want to focus on today:

  • when everyone at work compliments my outfit and I’m like “I know right”
  • when my uncle what’s app’s me with a never before seen picture of my mom when she was 18
  • lunch specials
  • when the perfect song comes on during a long run
  • when my 4 month old nephew smiles at me – he stares right at me, uninterested by anything or anyone else and just smiles right at me
  • when I have leftovers to eat for lunch and they taste better than the night before
  • when my 2 year old niece holds my hand all on her own, not when I ask to so we can cross the street, but when we’re just playing or walking and she reaches up to my hand casually, gets me every time
  • when I park at the roof of my apartment building and I’m just in time to watch to watch the sunset
  • when someone leaves a gift for me on my desk at work
  • leaving work early and hitting all the green lights
  • making spring rolls with my family and eating as many as possible, I personally call mine spring burritos because I always add too many toppings!
  • breakfast in bed
  • when my aunt, who doesn’t know how to use Facebook, and uses my uncle’s account because she locked herself out of hers – tries to message me by commenting on my pictures. I once posted a picture and quote from the Shining and she wrote in all caps “QUIEN ES DANNY???” (who is Danny)
  • when we’re both on board with ordering pizza delivery
  • when you quote Mean Girls in real life or in social media and people STILL get it and think it’s funny, it will never get old, ever, and it will always make me smile
  • when I say something funny at work and everyone laughs, this is my fuel
  • when I get good service, especially at a restaurant, it makes my meal perfect
  • when I ask someone at work how they are, and they don’t answer because they’re too self involved but I end up telling myself I didn’t want to know anyway – THEN someone else walks by and asks what I’m laughing at

70f9972f-ce32-4c4a-8a58-fd2878ed7698