Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Ambitions ll Revisited

I wrote this post at the beginning of 2016 and didn't really think much of it since. Every once and while  it would pop into my thoughts but I wanted to revisit my goals and see how I did and where I want to go in 2017. All in all, 2016 was a good year. I traveled, Errol and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary and I marked my first full year at my new job.

+ Find My Passion

I don't know what this looks like or where to start but it's at the very top of my list. I want to focus on things that make me feel alive.  I have a group of things in life (books, hiking, adventures) that I love doing and that stir my soul so I want to spend more time doing them. But I also want to find my work passion.
Still working on this one. How do people find their passions? I kinda feel like it's something you fall into or just know, which I don't. 

+ Travel More

On Truly Living:
Source
I did well with this one. I went to Orlando, Chicago and Phoenix all for work related events. Errol and I took a long weekend and went to Acadia/Bar Harbor for our anniversary weekend and visited Boston twice for the weekend.

+Contemplate a Tattoo

Don't quote me on this but something small with either significant person meaning or something bookish.
Still contemplating this one. I'm almost leaning more towards getting my nose pierced...

+ Get Healthy

Eat better and be more active. Regularly. Also hike more.  This year was pitiful. 
LOL....let's just say this was a failure. I will be making this my number one priority in 2017 as I'll be starting my 30's and would really like to be more healthy. I need to make it a priority now or it never will be.

+ Save Lots of $$ to Buy a House  in 2017 

This is right below "find my passion" but more likely to happen. While I love the non-responsibility of repairs and taxes of renting, I want my own place and I need DIY home projects in my life. And I want that adventure with Errol.
We opened our joint house savings account and have done well adding to it. We did better when we first opened it but I have a plan outlined for us in 2017 to save more, just in general, as I'm hoping 2017 is the year we buy our first house.

+ Focus on my Blog & Get a Custom Blog Design

I started this blog in March of 2015 on a whim. And I've grown to love this space I've created.  I want to grow it and not monetarily but post and content-wise.  I'm still trying to find my voice and figure it out but I want to put a better effort into it.  I decided early on that once I reached a year of blogging, I would invest in a custom blog design and I can't wait.
Nope. I wrote 60 posts this year which is laughable. I'd really like to focus more on this space and if I do well at that, reward myself with a new custom blog design.

+ Go on More Weekend Adventures This Summer & Plan Our 2017 10th Anniversary/Rose's 30th Trip

My big weekend adventure goal is a long weekend in Acadia National Park. Our winter trip this year was delayed because of my job change so Winter 2017 it is. Any thoughts?
See above. We went on some weekend adventures and I completed the goal of making it to Acadia. We have booked our combined Christmas/my 30th birthday trip in January and will be flying to Vegas and driving to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Zion National Park which I am extremely excited for.

+ Read 5 Classics in 2016 & Re-read His Dark Materials Series

I'm not setting a reading number goal this year.  I'm just going to read as much as I can, same as any year.  I thought I would switch things up and I have a whole shelf of classics waiting to be read so maybe I'll discover a new favorite.
Well, I read three classics but did not read the Dark Materials trilogy. I'd like to continue reading some more classics even though the ones I read this year were not my favorites.
 
And my one word for this year?
When I think about this year and all the things I want out of it, most of all I want to just have fun. I want to be carefree and enjoy life. I want to enjoy loving and being with Errol. After all, this is the last year of my 20's and no, this is not the last you'll hear about it.
I think I did a good job with that this year and honestly, having fun is really one of my mottos in life. You only have one life and I want to have fun living it. I want to have experiences and go on adventures and laugh. 

What is one of your goals for 2017?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Best Books of 2016


My reading was slightly down from last years 86 but I'm on my 74th book of 2016 and I'll probably end it with either 75 or 76 books. I listened to 13 audiobooks and read 61 books including three classics. I fell short of my five book goal for this year.  I'm thinking about my reading goals for 2017 and want to continue reading a few more classics as well as revisiting one or two favorites. I like to check in with books I've read before and see if they still feel the same. I also want to read a few more larger books. I always skip over them on my bookshelf but I truly love big sweeping stories that tell a whole history.

I love looking back on the books I read this year and remembering some favorites that I may have forgotten about. I narrowed my list down to ten for this years Show Us Your Books Special Edition.

In no particular order and maybe not necessarily all 5 star books, these are my best books of 2016:



Life According to Steph

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

What I Read: November

How is it December already?! I can't believe we are in the last month of 2016. I have the week after Christmas off and I'm counting down the days. Also, we just booked our Christmas/my 30th birthday trip in January and I'm anxiously waiting for that to roll around. I'm excited to go on a new adventure with Errol. We're flying into Vegas and then road tripping to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Zion and Bryce Canyon. If you have any recs, send them my way!

On to the books!

Loved It:

I didn't know what to expect with this book and I loved it. It had the perfect mix of nerdy linguistics and action. Imagine if you could control people just by saying a word; that certain words contained enough power to kill someone. The story wasn't linear but it also didn't flip back and forth between time periods. It unfolded in a way that told you bits of the story and it wasn't until the end that it all connected. Some people might not like that but I didn't mind it and thought it added to the story. I totally loved Emily and wanted more.
A short but interesting book. I was shocked by the ending. I thought I had it figured out. Historical fiction is my jam and this did not disappoint. I know basic Russian history so I enjoyed learning more about the Tsar and his family. 
Alice is one of my very favorites. I will admit I was disappointed upon opening my Amazon package and seeing how slim the book was. I knew it would be over too quick. But I was happy to see that she was back to her old storytelling. Her latest books have been more historical fiction based but Faithful reminded me so much of her "original" works. I fell in love with Shelby and the evolution of her character. Something about her just resonated with me and it didn't hurt that she was an animal lover. The postcards and how everything happens for a reason.
Gamache #9 - Audio
I'm just so in love with this series. I listened to Beautiful Mystery earlier in the month and that was just so-so for me but this one, ugh! It was just so good. I don't want to say too many things but Rosa, Ruth, Beauvoir and the awesome-ness that is Gamache.

Liked It:

 What a totally fucked up book. I'm just totally shocked and appalled that no one, especially a medical professional, caught on to what was going on. The author was completely alone. If the foster kids get taken away because the place is not fit to live, how can you allow the biological children to stay there? Mothers like Gregory's make my skin boil and the bad part is they don't even know they are doing anything wrong. Part of the book reminded me a lot of Glass Castle in the way the mom and dad were so self involved that the kids were just bystanders. 
Gamache #8 - Audio
This is one of the series that took place away from Three Pines and those ones tend to not be my favorite. I miss everyone in Three Pines. This one took place in a remote monastery and it was really hard for me to keep all the monks straight while listening. It's also where things start to come to a head between Beauvoir, Gamache and Francuir (no idea if I am even remotely close on that spelling!). The whole thing with Beauvoir and Gamache is just breaking my heart. It's hard not to want to just shake Beauvoir and be like wtf are you doing?!
I don't typically gravitate toward essays or short stories but this has been on my list for awhile. Keegan's writing is good and I loved the title essay. Some of the stories were depressing but it could also be because you know the writers fate. I liked that it was split up between fiction and non. I enjoyed Cold Pastoral, Stability in Motion and I Kill for Money.

Leave It:

 I was disappointed with this book. I know it was made into a tv series and I've enjoyed some of Perrotta's other books but man, did this book drag on and on. I do like his writing but the story lost me. The whole book was pretty lack luster and pointless. 
Another personal development book assigned at work. I didn't think much of what Tracy said was inventive. Parts of the book were contradictory. Some of the tricks I already implement because they seem like common sense, like prioritizing your to-do list. It did make for good discussions at work. 

Poll: when you make a to-do list, do you write it down or use an electronic version either an app or something like Excel or Outlook?

Love It:Faithful & Lexicon and always Gamache
Leave It: The Leftovers

Life According to Steph

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

5 Reasons You Should Support Local Small Business

Tucked between the craziness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Small Business Saturday. American Express started it back in 2010 as an initiative to support small, local businesses. I think it can sometimes get lost by its bigger cousins to the right and left. Not all small businesses can support the deep discounts that large box stores can offer nor might they have the extensive selection but what they lack, they make up for in customer service, a personal shopping experience and supporting the community you live. Last year 95 million people supported small businesses as part of Small Business Saturday and there is estimated to be a 10% increase this year.

I know many support small businesses either through their local community or online communities such as Etsy. Right now is a really great time to have a small business. More emphasis is being put on shopping local and supporting "real" people than ever before.  Here's five reasons you should be supporting local, small businesses.

Product Diversity

While box stores have their place, small businesses have the flexibility to offer a wider range of unique offerings. I especially like to shop local for gifts. Often times, these items could be local sourced or crafted. You might find a new company you've never heard of or find up and coming trends before they hit the big chains. Products will often be of a better quality than what you would find in box stores.

Small Businesses Give Back

More money stays within the community when you buy local vs large corporations. Small businesses are also more willing to give money to the community to support local causes.

"Small businesses deliver community character and economic advantages to the town they are positioned in, but also strengthen partnerships among neighbors, residents, other small business owners, community leaders and even schools by offering social and economic relationships. Many also support local causes, creating even more good within a community." (source)


Personalized Shopping Experience

Chain stores are great for when you want to pop in a get that one item that you need but if you're looking for something special or maybe you want some advice on something, small businesses offer personalized service that you just won't find at a big box store. Also, if you do happen to have a problem with a product, you're more likely to get a more personal response. Small business employees tend to be more knowledgeable about their product offerings. If you wanted to know advice on gardening, would you head to Home Depot or your local gardening shop? Your business matters to small businesses.

Environmental Impacts

"Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers-which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution." (source) Small businesses help keep communities unique and one of a kind. Small businesses can also improve your health when you buy foods from local farmers and co-ops. The produce has traveled less distance and is usually farmed without pesticides.

Create Jobs

Small businesses are the largest employer nationally.
  • Make up more than 99.7% of all employers.
  • Create more than 50% of the non-farm private gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Make up 97% of exporters and produce 29 percent of all export value. (source)
"Fundera is helping to support the growth of small businesses by providing capitol. Visit their post about supporting Small Business Saturday to learn more. If you own a small business or are thinking of starting one, check out Fundera for their small business loans.

Some of my favorite local small businesses:

-Bella Funk, a small boutique owned by two sisters with a great mix of national brands and local artisans.
-Just L, the cutest store with a focus on mid-century modern furniture and goods.
-Baliwicks, for a good drink and great dining atmosphere.
-Littleton Food Coop has a great mix of grocery store items and speciality foods. All produce and many other items are locally sourced. They are in the process of expanding too!
-Pentimento is the place to go for that special gift. They have a great selection of jewelry and cards.

How do you support small businesses?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What I've Been Up To

It's been awhile since I've sat down and talked about anything. September and October were busy months around here both work and life wise. Lots of travel and just enjoying life.

Bar Harbor, ME












Sorry for the photo dump but Bar Harbor was just so photogenic. We chose to take a long weekend and visit Bar Harbor for our ten year anniversary. It's a place that has been on my list for a while but it's one of those places that's a little too far to visit in a day. If you have a chance to go, do it! I fell in love with Bar Harbor and Acadia, really just the whole island. I was surprised how busy it still was there since it was past peak time and some businesses were closed but it was nice that there was still stuff going on. 

Our first stop on our arrival Friday afternoon (I was planning on being there earlier than that but someone wasn't into my early start time) was to Jordan Pond. They have a nice 3 mile-ish walk that goes around the lake and loops back to the house. I thought it wouldn't take that long since it was flat but we took our time and it ended up taking us a couple hours. We had lunch at the Jordan Pond House and had their famous popovers. Even at 3 in the afternoon, we still had to wait for an outdoor table. We had dinner at some random restaurant which I wasn't too impressed with.

Saturday we started bright and early with breakfast at this cute cafe near the town square. There were a couple brunch spots I wanted to try but both mornings we went by, there were lines out the door. We knew we wanted to rent some bikes to bike around the carriage roads in Acadia. The carriage roads are motor free so only foot, bike or horse travel. We had originally wanted to rent some scooters but they were done for the season. We thought we were going to do a 12 mile moderate ride for people like me that hadn't rode a bike in probably 15 years. Somewhere along the way we got turned around and ended up doing the trail backwards and instead of going down hill, were going uphill quite often. We ended up doing 20 miles and let me tell you, my lady bits were hurting by the end of it. This was my very favorite part of the trip and really just the best day. 

We also visited Sand Beach and did the Park Loop Road part of Acadia and made our way to Bass Head Harbor Lighthouse. We watched the sunset at the top of Cadillac since it was going to rain Sunday morning. We had a really good dinner at Geddy's and some ice cream at the Emporium. I had grand plans of hikes but after the 20 mile bike ride, that was out of the question. All the more reason to plan a trip back because Acadia is known for its hiking.

If you want any rec's, just ask. I'm being lazy and not linking anything or taking the time to look up proper names. 

Boston





We went on our annual trip to Boston for Errol's birthday and his annual work function. I flew out of Boston the next morning to go to Arizona for a work trip. At his work function they do a whole bunch of raffle giveaways like a new truck, a car, an Indian motorcycle and lots of other stuff. Errol ending up winning two box seat tickets to a Bruins game so we were back there last weekend for that. I've never watched a hockey game in my life and they totally sucked (like losing 5-1 suck) but it was a fun experience. We also visited the Museum of Science since I hadn't been there since a fifth grade field trip. It was kind of kid oriented but still interesting.

Race Car Driving



For Errol's birthday, I gave him a 20 lap race car driving experience. I knew it would be something he'd enjoy but probably never ever do for himself. He did really good and ended up passing the other two cars and one of them twice! They only let three cars on the track at a time so no accidents happen. He said that it seemed like you were going faster than you actually probably were. 

Phoenix, AZ


I was asked to attend another ECRM event for my company. This was was focused on Beauty and Personal Care and had companies in that area who were looking for contract manufacturers. We made some good contacts and had 35 meetings in less than two days. The first night they had a western theme with bull riding, cow roping and a shoot out. I had way too much fun participating in everything. I'm lucky that my manager takes part and encourages the fun as well. It was a whirlwind trip so I didn't get to see anything of Phoenix. Arizona was way better than I had pictured it. It was never on my list of must see states but after this short trip, I'm interested in seeing more.

Hiking





I finally got out for a hike with one of my friends. We did Cannon which is a 4000 footer but we cheated because Cannon also has a tram so we took that down. Good thing we planned that all along because the last half of the hike was in the rain. It would have been dangerous to hike down the wet and slippery rocks. I forgot how much I love hiking and being in the mountains. 

Randoms 
















Haircuts (chopped a good 6-7 inches off), voting (don't wanna talk about it), tie dying again, Chitty cuddles, being a crazy cat lady with the shirt to prove it, favorite author reading, foliage appreciating and our first snow. That about sums up the last couple of months.

What have you been up to?
 
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