Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Adventures in the Great Wide Somewhere // Quechee, Vermont

I recently moved to New Hampshire which is basically Vermont with how close I am to the border. On my first weekend here, my mom, sister and I explored what this rural New England area had to offer and we ended up in Quechee, Vermont. What a surprising and delightful place to spend a Saturday!

Quechee Gorge
After doing some research online we found that Quechee Gorge is called the Grand Canyon of the East. And while I've never been to the Grand Canyon, I have seen pictures and sorry to say it just doesn't live up to that moniker. But it's still gorgeous. The picture below is from the bridge above the gorge and after that we took a short 1/2 mile hike over to the damn. The path is an easy trek and very lovely, a perfect way to spend a morning and if you're looking for a short and simple hike through some nature.

Quechee Gorge Village
A quaint collection of shops just down the road from the Gorge, the Quechee Gorge Village is a must-stop! With an Alpaca store and farm--yes, you can see the animals!--, a Vermont gift shop, a Cabot Cheese Creamery, Toy and Train museum, and antique mall, there is plenty to do in this mall of stores. The antique mall was my favorite! I loved looking around at all the booths and seeing what sorts of interesting finds I could discover. I bought an antique globe that I was super excited about! There were also tons of booths with books both new and old in them which is always fun. The Cabot Creamery had more than a dozen of cheese samples to try as well as a market with food to purchase and wine. The fill-your-own-bag and weigh assorted candy table at the Vermont store was a huge hit with me and my family. As was the different kinds of fudge you could buy. Easy to spend an hour or two wandering and partaking in fun trinket shopping! We ate lunch at CJ's Tavern adjacent to the Village and it was a perfect stop for some appetizers, or a full meal, to energize us for some antique shopping. A one room tavern and bar, we ordered loaded nachos and the sampler platter and it was delicious! The service was friendly and the waitress was so helpful when my mom was trying to get wifi to check into her flight which was especially appreciated as unless you are from there and have Verizon you get literally no cell service.
Artisan Park
Not located in Quechee but a 15 minutes drive to Windsor, VT you will find Artisan Park. A collection of various buildings and things to do including Harpoon Brewery, a Sustainable Farm Cheese Shop, the Path of Life Sculpture Garden, a Great River Outfitters, a Simon Pearce Glass & Silo Vodka Distillery. YES, that is all there right next to each other. My favorite part was the Path of Life Sculpture Garden. A spiritual walk taking you through the stages of life with an explanation of each stop on the map. This was the perfect amount of spiritual and introspective thinking without being too over the top. The writing of the stage was lovely, the stages laid out in a beautifully green field the includes a set of rock formations that are so the stones from Outlander, thanks Mom for that observation. Just a super lovely way to spend about 30 min-an hour of your day at a very small cost of $6.  We also watched some glass blowers in action at the Simon Pearce Glass store. I've seen this done in Venice twice but it's still amazing no matter where in the world you are. I didn't get a chance to do the brewery or distillery tour but it's definitely on my list to-do!

If you're in the area and looking for fun and local things to do, this should definitely be on your list. I only hope to find more towns like to explore and discover!

What do you think about antique shopping and small town America?
Are there any small towns near you that you think are hidden gems?

Don't forget to post on Instagram with the hashtag #WanderlustWednesday! It can be anything--a throwback travel photo of a place you've been, a Google image of where you want to go, an inspirational quote, a travel themed trinket you have, anything that inspires your wanderlust.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Think Pink {Charged Blog Tour and Giveaway}

"That's why you find something or someone that guides you,
someone that won't lose you,
and someone that you don't mind getting lost with when that inevitably happens."
--Jay Crownover, Charged
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 361
Publication Date: May 24th, 2016
Source: ARC provided by Ink Slinger 
Previous Books in Series: Built
Find on: Goodreads | Amazon

My Thoughts
The Belle
 What I love most about Jay Crownover's books are her ability to take two people who should not fit together but do. And in spectacular fashion. Charged is no exception to this rule. A defense lawyer and an arrested criminal, this story could not have been easy to write but Avett and Quaid, without a doubt, had a story to tell.

What I was most surprised and impressed with while reading this book was Avett and her characterization. The saying goes that not everything is as it seems and that is not more true than when I think of Avettt. Based on my perception of her from previous books, I expected to read about a petulant pseudo adult who wants to rebel against everyone and anyone, who doesn't care who gets caught in the crossfire. What I found was a very intelligent, selfless, caring young woman who just didn't know how to manifest her kind heart into action. Her journey through the book was my favorite part of the story. You all know how much I love a good heroine!

The romance and dynamic between Quaid and Avett was hot. Maybe it's just me but I felt that Jay stepped up her heat factor in this one and that's saying a lot. And while their steps to a HEA wasn't paved smoothly, I felt like they were able to connect easier than I would have expected prior to reading. The focus of the conflict was more on their individual hangups rather than their background and past. I mean, that played a part but it wasn't the whole focus which I appreciated.

The Beast
While I enjoyed this book, I do think it lacked a little of the deeper characterization I've come to know and love with Jay's characters. I think Avett was spot on but there was something about Quaid that I felt was a little superficial. I also thought there was just a bit too much sex in it when I would have rather had them discussing their feelings. It was hot, don't get me wrong, but it just seemed a bit excessive to me.

General Admission
If you love opposites attracting, pink hair, and hot lawyers...this book is for you.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Adventures in the Great Wide Somewhere // Packing A Checked Bag

A post a lot of people have been asking about are packing tips! To be honest, this was a lot harder to put together than I thought! Unfortunately there is no magic suitcase that allows you to bring your life with you all for the low, low weight of 35 pounds. Maybe one day when we all get into Hogwarts, right? I'm gonna go through a few things that have helped me and I've learned along the way as well as include a few travel-savvy friends and their number one packing tip. Even though it looks long and intensive, I'm gonna include my travel packing list of everything I usually bring so you can get some idea of what all goes into that precious cargo. This edition will focus on checked luggage. Note: I haven't mastered the art of packing carry on only and I don't think I ever will, I'll explain why more below.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Why Have One When You Can Have Two? Or Four?

I've got a little bit of a hot topic issue today I wanted to talk about. My previous rant of a discussion book dealt with book shaming and today's topic peripherally deals with this. That topic? Love triangles/ship switching/multiple love interests. Listen. I get it. To an extent. I'm sure there are numerous books out there with love triangles gone wrong or brought about solely for drama and not legitimate character development. I'm not here to talk about those books. What I'm here to talk about is the rabid reaction and proverbial pitchforks that are enacted when *gasp* a character's feelings or circumstances change and she starts to become romantically involved with a man different from the one that was initially introduced. a...bad thing...?
Personally, real life or fiction, who wouldn't want multiple hot, smart, amazing guys to choose from? I volunteer as tribute for this cross to bear! Pick me, love me, choose me! Ok, I'm done with book and TV references...maybe. But for real, superficial reasons addressed first and now put aside, having options is never a bad thing. Relationships, romantic or platonic, change as we grow up. And we do. We grow up. We change. We go through things. We have experiences that change our perspective of a situation. We mature and have different opinions and goals and ideas and ambitions that may or may not align with our 'first love.' So...what? I'm supposed to be stuck with this person for the REST OF MY LIFE because he happen to be the first guy I came across that sparked my interest? Hell to the f'ing no!

Of all the people I've met, I know ONE person who ended up with their high school boyfriend and that is the exception not the rule. How lucky people are to have met their soulmate on the first go. I envy you, truly I do. But real life--for the most part--doesn't work that way. I like my books fictional yet realistic. Most people do not stay with their first love nor do we judge people for breaking up with somebody at 16, 17, 18, 20, 25, 30 or older. You break up because something isn't working and we all deserve to be happy and fulfilled in relationships. So if it isn't working, pull a Frozen and let it go. Do we not give advice to our friends to get out if their partner isn't treating them right?
We wouldn't have those rigid expectations for ourselves or people we know, so why do we have them for book characters? I personally really love books that make situations realistic. It's not realistic to believe we will spend forever and find our soul mate connection with the first person we have feelings for. And if we were stuck with them because they came first?...I would be fucked in the worst way. I don't know about you guys but the first guy I liked treated me like dog shit and I thank fuck for options and the ability to walk away. So why are people so opposed to our favorite characters doing the same? Don't we want what is best for them?

I don't know about you but my feelings are complex, steeped in areas of gray, and ever-changing depending on the situation. Nothing is ever black and white to me so why do we expect our beloved characters to have such rigid and unchanging emotions. The best books to me show character growth and change and maturity. They learn from previous mistakes and situations they've been put in and because of that they need different things in a partner, just like we all do.

Look, I'm-kind-of-not-really-but-a-little-bit-sorry to be a bitch and say this but psh, when has that ever stopped me? Here's my truth: I find the abhorrence of love triangles and ship switching to be really immature, short-sighted and truly crosses the line of slut-shaming. To completely discredit a book you haven't even read based on an assumption of a second potential love interest is absolutely ridiculous to me. To slam a book because the characters have different feelings than what you expected to happen is not your call to make ( my humble opinion...). I mean, you do you. Let the authors do them and give their characters the justice they need to serve. And let the characters have the ability to make mistakes and grow and choose their own choices, too. I get that some people could say books are still fiction but that is really not the point to me. The point is that I look for characters and books that show strength and fluidity and change, not rigidity, unfeeling, emotionless robots who just do what they're 'supposed to do.' How not fun is that to read?
As with my previous discussion post, if you're offended by this post, I'm not going to apologize because you're probably guilty of above said behavior. You are completed entitled to your opinion but my purpose for writing this is to encourage people to read with an open mind and understand that character's feelings and journeys, like our own, are filled with multiple relationships, mistakes, changing feelings, and growing pains. Give characters and authors the respect you would give yourself or your friends.

What do you think?
Do you like your characters to be realistic and have multiple relationships and growth?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Masquerade Magic

"For even she knew there was only so much one could do to protect a winter moth drawn to an icy flame."
-Evelyn Skye, The Crown's Game
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 416
Publication Date: May 17th, 2016
Source: ARC provided by publisher
Previous Books in Series: First book in series
Find on: Goodreads | Amazon

My Thoughts:
The Belle 
When I heard this book was being compared to The Night Circus and took place in Imperial Russia, I was immediately intrigued. Anything and everything having to do with Russia I'll almost 100% read it. When this showed up on my doorstep I was beyond excited and it did not disappoint. The Crown's Game is a fantastic book with so much vivid imagery that 1800s Imperial Russia came to life before my eyes. While I'm familiar with St. Petersburg, having traveled there countless times in my head thanks to the wonder of books, the imagination of Evelyn Skye brought a unique look to a city my heart has loved for years. How did she do this? Magic...

Both figurative and literal, the writing of this book's magic was nothing short of extraordinary. This book focuses on two people, Vika and Nikolai, who are locked into a duel of magical abilities to see who will prevail and be named the Imperial Enchanter who will protect the tsar and Mother Russia herself. How they compete is with amazing displays of their magical abilities and that's all I'll say about that. I don't want to ruin what they do by telling you, it's worth the wait and surprise. I will say it's beautiful. I didn't know what to expect with regards to the actual competition and how it would play out but I loved how it did. The magic of Vika and Nikolai was truly brought to life with the magic Skye weaves with her expressive writing.

The romantic aspect in this book is as subtle as the magic is overt. Voka and Nikolai are stuck in this competition but cannot help being drawn to one another. The fight they each have other their feelings for each other and the Game is truly a Catch-22. The sparks that fly between them and the few shared moments are electric. Nothing short of a fairy tale. What I didn't expect was to become so involved with Pasha, tsarevich and best friend to Nikolai. I know a lot of people are opposed to the dreaded love triangle to an unhealthy level but I truly enjoyed reading about all aspects of these three peoples' relationships to each other. It was not contrived in the least and I really liked what Skye did with her characters and I hope all readers can enjoy them separately and together as much as I did. That masquerade ball? Daaaaaaayum, girl! I was melting with feels and swoons and everything in between!

The Beast
I really loved reading this book. Truly. However, having read The Night Circus before I couldn't help notice how similar they were. If I hadn't read The Night Circus, this book would have been acutely unique and extraordinary to me but the similarities between them were obvious so it stopped me from fully loving this book to a 5 star level. I would still 100% recommend reading it even if you have read The Night Circus because on its own The Crown's Game is still ethereally beautiful and romantic.

Backstage Pass
If you love magic, forbidden romance, and impossible choices...this book is for you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Adventures in the Great Wide Somewhere // Marrakech, Morocco

I think I will say this in every Moroccan city I do but I LOVE Marrakech. I fell in love with Morocco and everything about it. I'll talk about it more below but the souk district aka huge marketplace of Marrakech is simply amazing. Ok I gotta stop...see below. Heads up, this post is gonna be a little light because I spent most of my day wandering around the markets and didn't go anywhere else. Because of that I'm gonna include some general Moroccan Tips and To Knows.

Moroccan Tips and To Knows

  • Morocco is a Muslim country, ergo you need to respect their culture and clothing restrictions. Women must have their shoulder and knees covered at all times. I escaped really having to pay attention to this because it was January and nobody was running around in tank tops but high season is summer so plan wardrobe accordingly even if its a scarf tied around your shoulders. Keep it classy.
  • I was with a tour group that drove us from city to city and I would highly suggest this if you can. Navigating the streets of these Moroccan city looked like a feat in itself and I honestly wouldn't want to be bothered with the stress of driving and parking, let somebody else do it for you.
  • While I never felt unsafe walking around Morocco, venturing outside the Medina of Fes probably isn't the best idea. Especially if you're solo and you're a woman but that's just common sense to me. Additionally, my friend and I walked outside of Marrakech near our hotel to get food and were offered drugs twice while on a 15 minute walk. And I was also hassled by literal 10 years olds trying to feel me up and sell me flowers while walking back. Again, see my rules of travel--do nothing that can get you arrested so those kids walked away with their faces intact. And no, I'm not above hitting a child who is trying not molest me. Just be smart and know your surroundings as you should in every city
  • Carry coins on you because a lot of street vendors or performers want money if you want to take a picture. It's a minimal amount but keep some on you so you're not digging around while trying to hold your camera, etc..
  • Haggle! Every price in Morocco is negotiable except maybe at a restaurant. Seriously offer half of what they tell you and be prepared to walk away if they don't give you the price. The second you turn away they will give it to you and you're still getting ripped off even if you get it for the price you want, haha. I got two t-shirts in Marrakech at a shady upstairs room from 1/8 of the asking price because it was legit all the money I had left, no lie. I walked away and they yelled I could have it. It was my biggest win of the trip!

Souk District
The massive market of Marrakech is exactly what I imagined from seeing pictures. Sand colored buildings, large open spaces, snake charmers, henna artists, it's all here and it's all amazing. The sounds and smells and energy of this place is nothing short of magical. While I can objectively see how this place would be super overwhelming to people and not their style, I fell in love with it. It's loud and crazy and while you legit have to pay to even take a picture of something--very minimal, a few dirhams equivalent to a few US dollars. Because getting to hold a snake a la Britney Spears Slave 4 U was a serious life goal. Checkmark. And those sidewalk dentists you read about in Daughter of Smoke and Bone? They exist. I didn't get a picture because I was not paying to take of pic of that...nasty.
Bahia Palace
This place was so beautiful! And it gave me exactly what I came to Marrakech to do...find a beautiful door and take a picture of it pretending I was walking into Elsewhere...le sigh...all the hearts in eyes. I was waiting to take that picture for years. I mean, YEARS! I was so excited I said to my friend, I need you to take this picture, don't ask questions. It's been forever in the making, it's a book thing. Besides the doors, the gardens were beautiful and it was gorgeous to walk around.

Snake Charmer & Henna
As I stated above these people are all over the open space of the Souk District. For a few dirham you can take a picture with the snake charmers and if you're lucky they throw a snake at you for some pictures. Totally worth it. I didn't do henna but a few friends did and tip: get a price before you let them draw on you. This seems like common sense but a few friends had  a woman just start drawing on them after they said yes and it was way more expensive than they thought and way more expensive that other people paid. They got punked. It happens. Live and learn.

While Morocco might be a very conservative Muslim country, that all goes out the window when you go to a club. Attached to a hotel, we went to Theatro Marrakech and it was out of control fun. Choreographed dancing, drums, flame dancers, it was so f'ing amazing and I'm not even a club or going out person. We left at midnight to go out and the club legit did not get crowded until close to 1 am so plan accordingly if you want to go out. Nightlife starts late.

Stay tuned for Fes and Chefchaouen in the coming weeks! Both cities, like Marrakech, are definite places to add to your travel bucket list!

Don't forget to post on Instagram with the hashtag #WanderlustWednesday! It can be anything--a throwback travel photo of a place you've been, a Google image of where you want to go, an inspirational quote, a travel themed trinket you have, anything that inspires your wanderlust.

Monday, May 9, 2016

I Dream of Stars and Wings and Paint

"To the people who look at the stars and wish...
To the stars who listen— and the dreams that are answered."
--Sarah J Maas, A Court of Mist and Fury
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Pages: 624
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2016
Source: Bought
Previous Books in Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Find on: Goodreads | Amazon

My Thoughts

*Some plot spoilers ahead. If you have not read, you have been warned* 

The Belle
I really don't know where to start with my feelings on this book. It really is rare I have a legitimate book hangover that makes it almost impossible to think let alone actually pick up another book. A Court of Mist and Fury is one of those special books to me. I went in with no expectations because I had legit no idea where the plot would go. I felt that ACOTAR was such a great story that came full circle in the end (albeit a few secrets left unspoken) that I was just excited to see where Sarah took the story. I was ready for anything and everything and I got all of that...and so much more.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Itinerary Update {1}

Hey guys! This is the first time I've ever done one of these personal check-in/what I've been doing in life/how I'm feeling kind of posts and I'm a little nervous about it. Personally, I love reading other people's personal posts and what they've been up to in life so I'm hoping all y'all who stop on by here feel the same.

On the Blog...
Blogging Days...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Adventures in the Great Wide Somewhere // Road Trip Essentials

For this week's travel post I thought I'd take a life imitating art point of view. Tomorrow I embark on my fourth assignment as a travel nurse. This new position is taking me to New Hampshire and I'll be starting at Dartmouth on Monday. I'm extremely excited to start this new job! Not only is it at such a highly reputed hospital but it's in the exact location I wanted to be, that being New England. Besides a short trip to Boston, I've never been to any of the New England states and I cannot express how excited I am to live there and explore all there is around there. As with all my assignments, I'll be driving there so I thought I'd share my road trip essentials as I have learned them. Whether it's for a job or for fun, these are my must-haves when departing for a long haul drive.

Taylor Swift is always my go to playlist
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