Life Update: December

Monday, January 16, 2017

December was one of those months where it felt like it flew by but dragged on at the same time.  I spent a lot of time at work (including Christmas) and it was way harder than I thought, not being at home for Christmas.

Josh and I spent the first Saturday doing some local Christmas things.  We went to a Christmas market at Thousand Island Winery, which was not as great as we thought it would be.  But the mulled wines and other wines we tasted made the trip totally worth it! 

Earlier in the month, I applied for a job with my old company.  Unfortunately, I didn't get an interview.  I have a pretty strong feeling its because I have a Fort Drum address since I'm way more than qualified for the position and I left the company on great terms.   It's a bit of a bummer, but such is Military life.  There is a job fair at the end of the month which I am planning to attend, so we'll see. 

The second weekend of the month, I went down to Maryland for the annual Hanlon Family Christmas Dinner.  My Dad's side has been doing this for 30 some years and I love going and seeing family every year.  The dinner was on Sunday, so I headed down on Friday after work.   I spent Saturday hanging out with my Mama and watching season 2 of Fuller House with her.   It was just what I needed after spending 7 hours in the car on Friday.

This years dinner was held at a local golf club called Mountain Branch.  It was really great.  I did have some issues because it was buffet style and the only things I could eat were rolls, potatoes, and green beans; everything else had meat in it :(  but it was a good time and it was great to see people that I don't get to see often.

At some point in the middle of the month we got a pretty good snowstorm.  I was at work when it started so I had to drive home in it.  Talk about the most terrifying drive ever!  It took me an hour and a half to make the normally 20 minute drive home. I don't think I went over 20 mph.  It was so bad.  The snow up here is no joke!   Needless to say, I called out during the next storm!

I feel like the rest of my month was just work, work, work.  I even worked on Christmas Eve and Christmas (not by choice).  How did I choose to work at the one restaurant that is open on Christmas?  In my defense, I had no idea and they didn't bother to tell me in the interview.

Since I had to work at night on Christmas, Josh and I had some of the guys from his unit over for a lunch.  We made Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Corn, and Rolls.  Not much but it was better than them staying at the barracks.   Bolt was super excited to make some new friends!

Our New Years Eve was very exciting.  I worked in the morning and then we spent the evening reading and watching Chicago PD.  I know, we lead exciting lives!  We watched the ball drop and then went to bed.   It's OK to be jealous ;)

 It's official, I have completed one full year of monthly Life Updates!!  I'm honestly shocked, I really didn't think I'd keep up with it!  Even if it was the only post I put up that month, I made sure to get each one posted!   I don't know if I'll continue it this year or not, but it was nice looking back on all the updates and remembering all the great things that happened this year!

Book Reviews: December 2016

Friday, January 6, 2017

Leave it to Alyson Richman to get me out of my reading funk!  I only finished two books in December but they were just what I needed to get out of my reading funk. 

Alyson Richman is one of my favorite authors.  I've loved every single book I've read by her and this one is no different.  I always feel like I learn so much from her books - before this book I knew nothing about the brutality in Chile in the 70's or the Finnish war children.  What I love about her books is how emotionally invested I get; there were a few times when I had to put the book down.   This book entangled the beauty of life and love with the brutality of life at wartime.  There is no sugar coating but that it why I got so invested in this book.   Though Salome's story is the most central and I definitely felt for her and was devastated for her, I think Kaja's story that really got to me.  This book, like her others does start out a bit slow, but push through, I promise it's worth it!  I highly recommend this book, especially to lovers of travel and historical fiction! 

I gave this book a 5/5 on my GoodReads.

I requested this book on Netgalley a while back but was denied because I didn't have enough reviews at that point.  When I saw the book on Amazon for $1.99 right after Christmas, I decided to get it.  I've always loved figure skating so I wanted to see what this was all about.  I found the story to be cute, but sometimes a little annoying.  I was really annoyed at the main character for her lack of communication throughout most of the book.  Except for that one issue, I really enjoyed the story and the skating references.   Overall, it was a cute, light read that I'd recommend if that's what you're in the mood for.  It was nothing spectacular but it was enjoyable.

I gave this book a 3/5 on my GoodReads.

101 in 1001: 2017 Goals

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Along with my other goals for the year, I hope to check some things of my 101 in 1001 list in 2017.   The official end date for this challenge for me is August 2018, so I'd like to knock a good bit of the list out in 2017.   These are the things I really hope to accomplish in 2017:

1. Put together a financial plan and stick to it.
I bought David Ramsey's book "Total Money Makeover".  Everyone I've talked to about it said it's extremely helpful and they can't recommend it enough.  I'll be reading the book in January and watching our finances in February.  This will be a bit hard to do until March because things will change when Josh goes to Europe.  So, this one may have to wait till March or April, but it will happen.  We have a lot of plans and we don't want to be wasting money.

2.  Finish the 50 States reading challenge.
You can read all about that here.

3.  1/2 of the NY/Fort Drum list
I divided my list up into categories and one of those was NY/Fort Drum.  There are a bunch of things on that list and I'd like to knock out about half this year.  Where I go and what I do will depend a lot on work and how many visitors I have and where they want to go.

4.  Visit Farm Sanctuary
Since I am switching to a vegan diet this year, I really want to make this a priority.  Farm Sanctuary is located in Watkins Glen which is about 2.5 hours from Drum.  I really think this will help me a lot and really motivate me.  I can't wait to love on some rescued animals and meet the amazing people who work with them.

5.  Visit Ottawa 
Ottawa (Canada) is only a 2 hour drive from us, so this is definitely happening.  Josh and I were going to go when we first moved to NY, but it ended up being a crap day and then we adopted the dog and didn't want to leave him for that long since we didn't know how he'd be.

6.  Visit at least 1 new country & Go on another cruise (on a new cruise line)
Josh and I are going to be saving for a cruise that we will take when he gets back from Germany.  We're really hoping to be able to do a new years cruise and we're looking at Norwegian Cruise Line.  We'll most likely be on the cruise before 2018 but depending on the itinerary, we may not set foot in new country until 2018.  However, as long as the cruise is booked and we're going, I'm counting it as a success.

Are you doing the 101 in 1001 challenge?  What do you hope to accomplish this year?

2017 Book Challenges

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

In the past I have tried and failed at several book challenges.  This year I've decided to only do two (ish).  I am going to finish the 50 States Challenge and I want to participate in Around the World in 80 books which I discovered on Erin's page.  I don't plan to finish that one this year, though.  However, I do plan to read at least 15 books that take place in different countries.  I've been keeping track of books by country for as long as I've been doing the 50 states challenge, so any book I've recorded during that time will count towards my goal of 80.

I got a lot of Amazon gift cards this past Christmas and of course it was spent entirely on books for my Kindle.  I've bought a lot of books for these challenges and I'm super excited to read some of them - others were a bit of a gamble but I'm interested to see how they turn out.

Here are the books that I've read so far: 

Alabama: This is Where It End by Marieke Nijkamp (03/08/16)
Alaska: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (02/02/15)
California: A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard (11/11/15)
The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (10/30/14)
Maine: Lost and Found by Jacqueline Sheehan (05/09/14)
Minnesota: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (05/15/14)
Montana: Vampire Academy by Rachelle Mead (07/01/14)
Nebraska: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (09/25/14)
New Jersey: One For the Money by Janet Evanovich (06/21/14)
New Mexico:
New York: Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham (07/17/14)
North Carolina: The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks (06/15/14)
North Dakota: 
Oregon: If I Stay by Gayle Forman (03/05/15)
Pennsylvania: Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian (10/25/15)
Rhode Island:
South Carolina: Letting Go by Kate L. Mary (09/22/16)
South Dakota: 
Tennessee:  Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally (10/22/15)
Texas: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (5/23/16)
Washington: Home Front by Kristin Hannah (11/06/14)
Washington DC:
West Virginia:
Wisconsin: The Recipe Box by Sandra Lee (12/14/15)

Afghanistan: The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi (08/05/15)
Argentina: Cartwheel by Jennifer du Bois (11/21/15)
Canada: When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke (02/04/15)
Chile: A Rhythm of Memory by Alyson Richman (12/15/16)
Czech: The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman (05/19/14)
England: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (12/13/14)
Germany: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (01/15/15)
Ireland: Thanks for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern (12/31/14)
Nepal: Sold by Patricia McCormick (01/14/14)
The Netherlands: Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (01/22/16)
Russia: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah (05/01/14)
Scotland: Christmas Under a Starlit Sky by Holly Martin (10/30/16)

2017 Goals

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

At the beginning of 2016 I made some goals that were a bit hard to measure and a bit vague.  I pretty much forgot about them in a week.  This year I set more realistic goals and plan to do monthly blog posts about my progress to keep myself accountable.  Here are my goals for 2017:

1. Switch to a Vegan Diet
This is my main goal for 2017.  About 2.5 years ago I decided to eliminate meat from my diet.  I did this cold turkey and the first few months were really difficult, especially when I would go out to eat.  After those first few months it became easier and easier, and now I can't imagine ever eating meat again.  Switching to a vegan diet will be even harder, so I've decided that cold turkey is not the way to do it.  I'm taking a bit of a different approach to this and switching by meal.   I've been working on breakfast first because it's my biggest meal of the day.  Even if I work in the morning, I don't have to leave until 1015, so I always have time for breakfast.  After I have breakfast down I'll switch to Lunch and then Dinner.  I eat a medium sized lunch and a small dinner (mostly because I work through dinner and don't want to eat too much when I get off work), so it makes sense to me to do it this way.   I already have most of my snacks down since most of my snacks happened to be vegan already.   This is going to be a long process, but I hope to be 99.2% vegan by the end of the year (the only thing I wont give up is Crabs.  I'm from MD, they kick you out for that ;) ).

2. Focus on my Health
This goes right along with going vegan.  I really want to focus on my health this year and I have a lot of plans for this.  I plan to get outside a lot this summer, especially with my Bolt pup, and I plan to stick to a good routine at the gym.   I have a whole post planned about my health and fitness goals.

3. Focus on Bolts Training
We took Bolt to training at Petco and while I did learn some things, overall it was a waste of time and money for me.  I spent most of the time trying to control him because he wanted to play with the other dogs and there was only a few times where we actually interacted with our dogs.  He's definitely not a bad dog but there are some behavior issues we'd like to improve.   I bough Cesar Millan's book about correcting dog behavior so hopefully that will be more helpful.  There is also a place nearby that does Canine Good Citizen classes and I would love to get him into that, but he needs to be pretty well trained beforehand. 

4. Photo 365 on Instagram
 This is my fun goal for the year.   Since Josh will be gone for a good 3/4 of the year, I thought this would be a fun way for him to see what Bolt and I are up to.  It's also a fun way to document the year.  I've already started with this goal on Instagram with the hashtag #JLRich365.   Prepare to see lots of adorable dog pictures and vegan meal pictures, and once it warms up, hopefully you'll be seeing lots of winery and travel photos.

5. No Spend Year
Over the last few months I've realized that Josh and I spend too much money on dumb shit and stuff we don't need.  So, this year we've decided on a no-spend year.  No buying crap we don't need, no random trips to the PX, and no going out to eat.  Josh will be in Europe for most of the year so of course he's going to want to do a bit of exploring, which is fine and same with me exploring around here.  We just want to stop the impulse spending.   Hopefully with this, we can pay some debt off earlier than planned.

6. School: Go back and maintain 4.0
 I got accepted to the Paralegal program at the local community college but I haven't yet found out if I got financial aid yet.  So my going to school depends on that and I wont know anything until probably March or April.   If I do go back to school, I want to maintain a 4.0 gpa.  I graduated my criminal justice program with a 4.0 and I want to keep that up.

7.  Finish the 50 States Reading Challenge
I've written a full post about this goal which will go up tomorrow, so check back for this goal along with my one other reading goal for the year.

ABC Reads: Final Update

Monday, December 26, 2016

I've had a bit of a rough reading year.  After moving I found it hard to find the time to read.  It's the end of December and I'm just now finding the time and getting myself on a good schedule.  That being said, it's no surprise to me that I did not finish the ABC Reads Challenge this year.  I am happy that I managed to finish more than half, though.  Here are all the books I read along with links to the reviews.

A: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (5/20/16)
C: The Cellar by Natasha Preston (5/11/16)
D: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (5/23/16) 

E: The Evolution of Mara Dyer (1/13/16)
F: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (5/10/16)
G: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (1/28/16)
H: How to be Single by Liz Tuccillo (05/18/16)

2016 in Review

Friday, December 23, 2016

I was totally prepared to do this long year in review post recapping the highlights of each month ... then I got lazy.  So instead I just got the pictures off of each life update post and added them on to this post.  Each photo is a link to that month's update.  Overall, my 2016 wasn't too bad.  I know it wasn't a superb year for a lot of people, but I can't complain.  It started out a bit difficult with Josh being gone for so long, but I was able to take quite a few trips to see him and explore new areas.  The end of the year hasn't been that great and I hope it's not a foreshadowing of things to come in 2017.

2017 should be an interesting year.  Josh will be gone for the majority of it, again.  I have high hopes for a new job.  The company I worked for in MD got a contract up here and I'm hoping to snag one of those positions.  One of my close friends is getting married and I am a bridesmaid.  I should be starting school in the summer; I've been accepted to the Paralegal program at the local community college.  I will be slowly switching to a vegan diet - full post on this to come.  I'll be posting more of my 2017 goals after the new year.

All of that rambling to say, here is my year in review.   And Merry Christmas, everyone :)

Hayley Larue Design