The Sunday Salon: Feeling Blah about Blogging

Does anyone actually do Sunday Salon posts anymore? I don’t recall seeing that tagline in a very long time. Greetings, friends. I have been here on and off the past few months but I haven’t had any chatting time or life updates whatsoever. I do apologize for that – to say things have been busy is an understatement, and to say that I haven’t been very excited about blogging is a major understatement. Combine the two and you get what the blog has looked like lately.

So – life update! My boyfriend and I are moving to Tampa! Things with the two of us are fantastic, amazing, I just want to gush about this relationship every chance I get. We are beyond looking forward to embarking on this next phase in our life together in a new place where neither of us have ever lived before. We are in contract on a house but the closing is in about six weeks, and since we both already started at our new jobs (transfers for both, same positions new location), we are currently living back and forth between the house he has for sale in the existing place and a hotel near our new jobs in Tampa. It’s been interesting, to say the very least, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so excited about what’s to come and really loving exploring a new place with him.

The job transfer has been stressful and a bit hard on me. I am a pretty extreme introvert, but I pass as an extrovert, which is a weird balance to have to keep up. Essentially, I fool people into thinking I’m really outgoing by being “on” when I’m with people, but that takes a huge toll on me and I need a lot of recharge time after I spend a lot of time with others. A new job magnifies those feelings by about 100x. I am meeting new people, getting to know a new team (keep in mind I am their manager), letting them get to know me, and all of that fun stuff. Plus I work with the public (banking), so there’s a new customer to meet and chat with every few minutes. All of that equals a LOT of small talk for this shy introvert. I’m happy but at the end of each day I am emotionally wiped out.

That being said, I haven’t been reading a lot and the books that I have been reading have been mostly 3-star reads. I don’t mind a 3-star or even 2-star read every now and again, but only reading 4 or 5 books a month, and thinking most of them are “good but not great” is pretty annoying. The last book I REALLY liked was Behold the Dreamers (which I haven’t even talked about here) and I think that may have been the only book I can say that about so far this year. Disappointing, right?

So I want to blog about more stuff. I want to blog about personal stuff, and what I have been cooking, and what I have been doing, and restaurants I’ve visited, and beaches I’ve visited, and places I’m traveling to, and all kinds of fun stuff, but I can’t make myself sit down and do it. I guess this post is to say that I’m considering being a better blogger but I’m also considering giving it up altogether.

Friends, tell me. What have you done when you’ve struggled with blogging? I know a lot of my blogger friends have quit entirely, or have morphed their blogs into something different than they were years ago, but I can’t figure out how to do either of those things. Help!

The Sunday Salon and #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Update

47289-sundaysalonI knew it had been a long time since I’ve checked in via The Sunday Salon but holy crap … I looked at my archives and it’s been more than a year?! Wow. I really need to get back to this.

So what has happened recently? Well, I may or may not have shared that we moved in early December. I think I’d mentioned here before that we were having a house built, well it’s done, it’s everything we wanted and we are absolutely loving living in it. We’re still doing odds and ends kind of projects around the house, but mostly everything is how we dreamed it would be. Work has been … work … if you read my Day in the Life post, you were able to see how long my days are sometimes – but mostly I love it, exhausting that it can be at times. My husband changed jobs and he’s loving his new career so far, about a month in. Better growth opportunity within a company plus better pay = an offer he couldn’t possibly refuse, and I’m glad it’s working out so well for him.

Coming up for me is a family vacation starting this Thursday – my mom, aunt and cousin are coming in from Chicago and we’ll spend a few days at Ana Maria Island and a few days just hanging out here at the house. A trip to The Wine Room is definitely on the agenda, as well as perhaps spending a day at one of the Disney parks. Not sure yet, but we’ll have a great time no matter what.

I have been doing phenomenally well on #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks. Of the 25 books I read in the first quarter of the year, TWELVE of them were from my TBR shelves. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot to some people but I’m pretty sure that’s way more than I read all of last year from my own shelves. Only six of the books were from the library, one was a book I bought (for book club, still counts but I couldn’t get it any other way), and one was a review copy. The rest were a combination of audio, re-read, and comics, three categories I’m not counting towards my personal challenge. What’s most exciting about this is that I’m finding books I really like – and getting rid of ones I don’t. Additionally, I’ve read two books that were over 500 pages (and about to start a third), and three nonfiction books from my shelves – well on my way to my goal of six of each. While my first book finished in April was a review copy, and I do have some library stuff in the queue, I feel confident that I’ll continue this trend for the next few months. Check back in with me at the end of June for a second quarter update!

That’s all for today. It’s my husband’s birthday and all he wants to do is relax and lay low for the day, something I’m more than happy to indulge in myself. I plan to make these French Dip Sandwiches for dinner – one of his favorites – so I better get started on getting that together and in the slow-cooker.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What have you been up to lately? Anything exciting going on in your world?

The Sunday Salon: I’m Still Here!

Whew, just realized it’s been awhile since I’ve shown my face on my tiny little corner of the internet. I’ve had a hectic few weeks and blogging has definitely taken a backseat to real life – which is fine with me, but I wanted to check in and let you all know that I’m still here, still around! There’s been some drama in the book blogging world lately (drama that I’ve completely stayed away from and won’t talk about here), and some of my favorite long-time bloggers have recently quit completely, so it’s been a sad couple of weeks in the blogosphere. I even thought about quitting myself. Heck, I think about it a lot, actually. But something just compels me to keep coming back, keep sharing what I’m reading with whoever is listening out there – for now, I’m not going anywhere.

When I think about the past month or so of my life all I think about is the word “busy”, but that’s a word I strive to use less than I do, and in any case it’s mostly been a good busy so I’m totally not complaining! Almost every weekend the hubby and I have been enjoying some theme park or adventure of some kind. On February 14th one of my favorite bands EVER, Guster, was at House of Blues here in Orlando and we went to the show – it was amazing. I was so beyond happy to be there, and lucky for me, I have a wonderful husband who happily sits through a two-hour concert of a band he’s never heard of before and doesn’t complain one time. The night after that, Barenaked Ladies was playing at Universal Studios so of course we had to see them, too. Two weekends after that, I headed to Puerto Vallarta for a girls trip – I met five friends from Chicago there and we had five days of too much eating, drinking, sun and relaxing. It was a wonderful trip and I’m so glad I went.

Last weekend Trace Adkins was playing at Universal Studios, and while I’m not a country fan, hubby definitely is, so we met my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and a friend of hers there to see that show. The next night, Gin Blossoms was playing at Epcot so we saw them, too. Wow it seems like we see a lot of concerts but really, they are all free with park admission, and we have annual passes to almost all of the parks, so why not take advantage? It’s the best. This weekend has been relatively quiet – we went back to Epcot last night to meet a friend for dinner and caught the fireworks show before heading home, and today has been devoted to grocery shopping, stuff around the house, blogging, and a few other errands throughout the day.

I’m thinking about joining Trish for A Day in the Life, a blogging even that will take place on March 27th, even though I feel like my days are not that exciting. Yes I do a lot of stuff on the weekends bur during the week it’s basically wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch tv/read, sleep, repeat. I suppose I can enlighten some of you on what happens throughout the day in a bank branch manager’s life. Sound interesting? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I’ll probably do it anyway.

Next weekend we’re going to Busch Gardens, which is like two hours away, so we might stay the night so it’s highly unlikely you’ll hear from me. In a month my mom and aunt are coming to visit me! Starting the week after next, my assistant manager is on vacation for more than two weeks, which will be loads of fun (not). All that is to say I don’t know how much I’ll be blogging but I’ll make an effort for sure and as of right now, I’m not quitting. You’re stuck with me. 🙂

What are you up to today?

The Sunday Salon

47289-sundaysalonGood morning and welcome to The Sunday Salon. I wish I was the kind of person who has a Sunday morning routine that includes a post every week, but I am just not that person. So you get updates from me sporadically and today is one of those days when I felt motivated enough to turn on the computer this morning and chat.

So this week was mostly uneventful at work, which is a good thing. December was one of the busiest months ever, and while I had an amazing time back in Chicago for Christmas, the rest of the month leading up to it was nonstop busyness as far as work is concerned. January so far has been much calmer.

I’ve been reading! I have finished seven books so far this year, and they have all been very good! That’s a good track record so far, and I’ll take it, but I’m still waiting for my first five-star read of 2015. I’m in the middle of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah right now and I’m REALLY enjoying it. I’d only read one of her books in the past and liked it a lot, but for some reason haven’t picked up any more. If the second half of this book is as great as the first half has been, I’ll definitely read more of her this year. I’m also listening to Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson and while I’m enjoying it, it’s not the kind of book that I find myself excited to come back to. So I really have to make myself listen so I can finish it and move on to something else.

And also, so far this year I’m actually blogging somewhat consistently. I’ve posted a few reviews every week so far, and I have my two scheduled and ready to go for this upcoming week. I’m seeing a lot of chatter out there about book blogger burnout and I go back and forth on that. Some weeks and months I have my shit together and I’m reading and reviewing like clockwork, other weeks and months it just doesn’t happen. And I’m okay with that. I don’t have to be perfect or consistent – I do this when I want, how I want. And lately that means reading a few review copies and actually writing about them in a reasonable time frame. Maybe in a few months it won’t. And that’s cool too.

Let’s talk about the stuff I’m not doing so well. Exercising, for one. I had a great day (yes, day, ugh so pathetic) last week when I woke up at 5:20 am and went to the gym before work, and that lasted exactly one day. Booo. That’s something I really need to figure out and get on some kind of schedule. Cooking, for two. I said months ago that I was going to work my way through one of Rachael Ray’s cookbooks and then post about it here and then … radio silence. To be fair, I did make two recipes from the cookbook (and they were both great) but I still need to post about them. I would like to make one more before reviewing the cookbook overall, though. We’ll see if that happens.

This past week I had two book club meetings. Monday one of my book clubs met at BJ’s Brewhouse and discussed You by Caroline Kepnes. I actually got organized and found discussion questions online, and we had a very lively discussion (and delicious food and drinks). Then on Thursday, my other book club met at Vanbarry’s Public House and we were supposed to discuss Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. It was a great group, probably 13 or 14 people showed up, which meant we had a lot of fun and great conversation but almost no talking about the book – just too many people. It was fun anyway, though.

This has been a nice weekend so far. Yesterday I ran a few errands, did some stuff around the house, then my husband and I met another couple for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. Today we have no real plans, but we’re considering spending some time at SeaWorld or possibly Universal. This is what we love about living here – we can go to a theme park for a few hours, not get overly exhausted, and head home.

So… what’s on your agenda for today? Happy Sunday!

The Sunday Salon (on Monday) – and Happy Birthday to me!

Well hey there. While I’ve been gone for eleven days, I am still around! And today is my birthday! Woo-hoo!

Last night we flew back in from Chicago after a fun-filled and very busy five-day trip “home” for the holidays. Hubby had to work today but due to some extenuating circumstances at work earlier this year, I had an extra personal day to use so I don’t have to go back until Wednesday! Which means I get to enjoy two whole days of peace and quiet – just what I want for my birthday. 🙂 I plan to spend today reading and relaxing, and tomorrow cleaning, doing laundry, and shopping! Best birthday gift ever.

Since moving to Florida in December of 2009, hubby and I have never flown back to Chicago for Christmas. With our work schedules it’s been really difficult to get that time off, especially when TWO people have to coordinate getting that time off – a very busy time of year in the banking industry. Also, plane tickets that week are crazy expensive and in years past, we’ve possibly gotten the time off but only figured that out late in the year – too late to buy plane tickets at anywhere close to a decent price. But THIS year we coordinated our schedules in March, bought tickets the day Southwest posted those flights, and it was perfection. We had a GREAT trip and I got to do everything with family I wanted in those five days. Plus we spent a night with my oldest friends and their significant others – girls I’ve known since middle school and am still lucky enough to call best friends. Really, I couldn’t have asked for more.

And now I’m back and thinking about the new year. I have a ton of stuff I’d love to do better next year, but I don’t like the pressure and stress (and inevitable let-down and guilty feelings) of New Years Resolutions, so I’ll just quietly talk to myself about doing better and put some real effort into getting there.

I do have a TON of unreviewed books I need to talk about. I may just do a few mini-review posts or some longer ones, I’m not really sure. But I do want to talk about them. And will I do a best of post from 2014? Maybe, but if I do it probably won’t post until next week. I might still finish a book or two before the first and what if that’s my favorite? I wouldn’t want to speak too soon!

Anyway – that’s what I’ve been up to. How was your holiday? Any plans for the new year? I’m off to enjoy my birthday relaxation! Enjoy your week. 🙂

The Sunday Salon

47289-sundaysalonGood afternoon friends and welcome to The Sunday Salon. It’s been a pretty uneventful week over here, which is mostly a good thing. I decided to use an extra vacation day I hadn’t planned for and treated myself to a five-day weekend/staycation this weekend. So I took Friday, Saturday, and Monday off. Tuesday we are closed for Veteran’s Day, giving me five whole days to myself. It’s been glorious. I’ve been able to organize drawers and closets I hadn’t gotten to in more months than I can admit, leisurely do household chores (instead of rushing to finish everything on Sunday like usual) and READ!

I finally finished The Valley of Amazement! Even though the book was mostly torturous for me, the ending was one that I kind of loved. And I did like the first 100 pages or so. So I ended up giving it three stars, even though it could have (and should have) been about 200 pages shorter than it was. After that, I started and finished Dept. of Speculation (which I liked but didn’t love) and my re-read of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This morning, I started The Impossible Knife of Memory by the incredible Laurie Halse Anderson and Carole Radzwill’s memoir, What Remains, at the urging of a friend. So far, both books are fantastic.

I mentioned last week that I wanted to cook more, so today I decided to join Trish’s Cook It Up challenge this month. Basically, the idea is to use our cookbooks more and exactly how to accomplish that is up to the individual participant. For me, I’m going to try to focus on one cookbook per month (or use one for a couple of months if it’s going well or if I don’t have time to try lots of recipes) and then decide if it’s a cookbook I want to keep or toss. I have SO MANY cookbooks I never use that this is an easy and (hopefully) delicious way to weed out the bad ones from the good. So for now I’ll be focusing on Rachael Ray 30-Minute Get Real Meals, a cookbook I’ve had for YEARS but have never used. Tonight I’m making Indian Summer Turkey Chili – sounds super tasty and perfect for this cool, grey day.

Not much else to report here. I’m off to the grocery store to buy ingredients for my chili, and I plan to veg out with books or TV for the rest of the day. What are you up to today?

The Sunday Salon

TSS: After an unexpected hiatusGood morning and welcome to the Sunday Salon! It’s been a while since I’ve done a chatty post and I don’t feel like writing a review right now, so here we are.

I don’t think I updated you guys on my cruise! We had a GREAT time. I would absolutely, one hundred percent, visit the same places again (Barbados, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Lucia). I ended up not zip-lining – I know, I’m such a chicken. But I got a really bad cold the day before we were scheduled to go, and I knew I would be miserable and panic attack-y anyway, so I asked my lovely husband if he would just go by himself. Which, of course, he did. So we saved $100 and I didn’t have to do it. 🙂

And we snorkeled with sea turtles in Barbados – that was a super cool experience. We also did a catamaran cruise around St. Lucia, which has some of the prettiest scenery I’ve ever seen. But I think my favorite two places have to be St. Thomas and St. Maarten – the combination of bright blue water and mountains right there, it just can’t be beat. I think next year we’re going to fly to St. Thomas and actually spend a few days staying on the island. There’s so much to do and when we stop there on a cruise, we only ever go to Magan’s Bay. It is beautiful, for sure, but there’s a lot more to St. Thomas than that!

Since returning a few weeks ago, work has been pretty busy. This past week was exhausting and today couldn’t have come soon enough. I didn’t do anything for Halloween as I worked a twelve hour day then visited one of my employees in the hospital after she had surgery – by the time I got home, at almost 9 pm, I was ready for food, wine, and bed, and of course had to get up Saturday morning for work.

October and November are fun for my husband and I as we love the Epcot Food and Wine Festival – we had let our Disney passes expire for about six months, but started up again at the end of September. We’ve been going almost every weekend, and while the food and wine part is awesome, we also love to park-hop – spend a few hours at one of the four parks, then move on to the next, and so on. So our weekends have been filled with lots of Disney fun. 🙂

I’m not sure what is happening with my blog. I lately have been going through another one of those slumps where I just don’t feel like writing about books. I read a few great books on the cruise, and a couple since then, but don’t have the energy or excitement to talk about them. And my reading feels stagnant right now, too, but that’s probably because I’m dragging myself through a 580 page book that I’m not loving (The Valley of Amazement, and it’s for book club, otherwise I’d give up). I am sort of in limbo with this blog – like I’m kind of committed, kind of like I could quit and be perfectly happy. I am just not sure what to do at this point.

Actually, I’m feeling like that about a lot of things at the moment. I want to get back into exercise – taking long walks, using the elliptical at the gym, and yoga are a few things I keep telling myself I’ll go back to – yet I keep not doing it. I want to cook more often and more healthy foods – I have all these cookbooks sitting around, and I even took out one from the library yesterday, but I keep making the same things over and over, every night. Hubby and I want to get back into church after taking almost the whole summer off (I know, bad us) but we went last weekend and were underwhelmed by the service. We’ll go again today and decide if we want to keep up at this church or move on to try somewhere else. We’ve been without a church family for over a year now (we keep trying different ones but nothing seems to click with us) and it’s not a great feeling.

Also, I haven’t been to Chicago since June and I miss my nieces and nephew SO MUCH! I remember last year at this time I trick-or-treated with my nieces and while it was freezing cold and raining and the kids were SO freaking muddy by the time it was over, I still have fond memories. I miss them and can’t wait to go “home” for Christmas this year.

Anyway, I don’t want this to be a depressing post! I’m happy to have the entire day today to just do whatever – we’re going to church in a little bit, then probably grab some lunch and veg out in front of the TV for a few hours. It’s cold for Florida standards – about 50 degrees right now – so a long walk tonight is out of the question, but maybe an afternoon walk with the dog? We’ll see. And maybe I can sit down and finish this loooong book that’s been dragging me down for what feels like forever.

What are you up to this Sunday?

The Sunday Salon – Vacation Time!

If you’re concerned that I disappeared this week, fear not – I’m still here! I only had time to schedule the one post last weekend, and had a pretty busy week, so there you have it. And by the time you read this, I’ll be on a plane, headed for vacation! The hubby and I are flying to San Juan, Puerto Rico today to embark on a seven-day cruise! We’re hitting St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and St. Maarten and I have to tell you, I couldn’t be more excited. We typically do one big vacation every year, and this is it. I CAN NOT WAIT!

So things will be dark this upcoming week, too, but I do have a few books waiting to be reviewed that I’m excited to talk to you about when I get back. AND I plan on reading both the new Emily St. John Mandel AND the new Tana French over vacation (as well as at least one or two others) so I’m looking forward to coming home with LOTS of bookish goodness to share.

For now, I hope you are enjoying your Sunday and have a pleasant week ahead. I am looking forward to lots of reading, relaxation, and a few adventures (we’re zip-lining. I’m already having panic attacks.). Oh, and yummy drinks. Lots and lots of yummy drinks. 🙂

Talk to you in about a week!

The Sunday Salon

Currently, I’m

Feeling … Exhausted. Hubby and I drove to Tampa yesterday after work to spend some time with my mother-in-law. We ate at an awesome restaurant on Clearwater Beach, Jimmy’s Fish House, where the food was only decent but the view and atmosphere were absolute perfection. There was a live band – one of the guys was playing an electric violin, which I die for – and you’re literally on a pier on the water. It was a beautiful evening but we didn’t get home until almost 2 a.m. and honestly, after being up since 6 and working all day, it was just too long of a day. My poor hubby drove home while I slept, and I’m STILL incredibly tired.

Dreading … Hubby and I both have to go into work today for two hours because the company is doing a server upgrade, and we have to make sure everything is ready to go for tomorrow morning. The last thing I want to do on a Sunday afternoon is go into work but I know it’s important so I’m not really complaining … just, you know, I’d rather be home reading. 😉

Ok, now some good stuff!

Reading … I finished several books this week – The Maze Runner, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, and All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner. And last night I was able to finish That Night by Chevy Stevens on the drive into Tampa. All of these were excellent reads, so I’m loving the great streak I’ve been on lately! Next on deck is Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Listening to … Still The Lonely Polygamist. I think this one will take me many more weeks since I don’t listen too often so maybe I’ll just update you guys when I finish, sound good?

Watching … I don’t talk about TV much on here but I do watch a lot of it. Hubby and I DVR many, many shows and are still catching up with some of our shows from the spring while also watching a few summer shows. We’re finishing catching up with Chicago PD and Chicago Fire, Shark Tank, Glee, and Once Upon a Time. And our current summer shows include 24, So You Think You Can Dance, and The Bachelorette (I know, I know). I also started watching Veronica Mars on Netflix but I’m not very far along.

Looking forward to … The 4th! We don’t have any plans set in stone yet, but there are a couple of festivals over the weekend that we might attend, or we might just walk over to watch the local fireworks by our house. We went to a local wine and food tasting event on Wednesday night, and they were advertising fireworks on the 5th, which might be nice – less crowded maybe? We’ll see – all I know for sure is that I get the day off and that is always something to look forward to.

What are you up to this Sunday?

The Sunday Salon

Currently, I’m …

Reading … Still working on This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. I’m trying to take this one slowly, with essays if I don’t go slowly, they’ll run into one another in my brain. Still loving it. I also am reading All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner and it’s love. She’s an author I always go back to, but I’m only 100 pages in and already I think this one might be her best yet. I just started The Maze Runner for one of my book clubs, and although I don’t know what the heck is going on yet, I think I’m going to like this one a lot.

Listening to … I’m about 3 hours into The Lonely Polygamist and it’s good so far. Hopefully it’ll be good enough to merit me listening to it for 23 hours.

Excited About … Tomorrow we start a company-wide challenge at work called Step Up for World Hunger. Basically we form teams, track our steps taken per day as well as any other exercise done, and the company is going to donate money to organizations that work to eradicate hunger based on the amount of steps/exercise we do. It officially begins tomorrow and of course I’m leading a team with all of my employees.

Planning … My Sunday! I’m looking forward to the exact kind of summer Sunday I need – pool time in the morning, some errands and lunch in the afternoon, and a few hours at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park in the later afternoon followed by dinner at one of our favorite little places. It should be a nice balance of a relaxing and fun day.

Loving … the fact that hubby and I get to spend every single Sunday together. I see a lot of friends who have significant others with opposite work schedules, or extremely busy non-work activities, and don’t have a lot of time together, and I am grateful that we have almost the exact same work schedules and NEVER work on Sundays. It’s great.

Hating … the fact that a few of my friends went to a concert of one of my favorite bands in Chicago last night and I wasn’t there. Of course that happens a lot, when you live far away from “home” you miss out on a lot of fun things, and at this point I’m totally used to it. But I have LOTS of fond memories of going to concerts all through high school and college and I do miss doing that with my friends from home. It was a bittersweet feeling when I saw that post on Facebook this morning.

But not to end on a bad note, I love living in Florida and I appreciate every day the fact that I get to live in this lovely place with beautiful weather year-round! It’s done amazing things for my career and my husband’s career, and we know we are for sure in the right place. And now I am off to enjoy this gorgeous day!

What are YOU up to this weekend?