Reading lists, rejoice, for the best books of 2016

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It seems like everyone is either looking back or looking ahead right now, so it’s the perfect time to celebrate my favorite books and movies from the last year. I highly recommend adding all of the following to your 2017 or winter reading list.

I owe all my favorite reads this year to one thing – the library. It’s like this novel (ha) concept where books are completely free!

But seriously, I can’t believe I waited so long to stop buying every single book and revisit my childhood love of the library. Now I get ebooks right on my Nook and audiobooks through the Overdrive phone app, then buy my favorites for a more permanent addition to my collection.

Best books of the year:

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  1. Trouble is a Friend of Mine, and Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly – Veronica Mars meets Where’d You Go Bernadette. Enough said.
  2. Legend series by Marie Lu – Everything you loved about Divergent story and the Hunger Games characters, but so SO much better. NOTE: Read the ebook versions. The print version has an incredibly annoying font treatment to differentiate the point of views.
  3. Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith – JK Rowling returns with the world-building detail of Harry Potter + the sarcastic investigating of Sherlock Holmes + the will-they-won’t-they of Suits’ Donna and Harvey. Worth the long read.
  4. The Duff by Kody Keplinger – After reading and then promptly rereading, I thought “I wish someone would make a movie of this While I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, too, it bears absolutely no resemblance to the book.
  5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – I tried to figure out the mystery and talked-about twist the whole time and was still completely surprised. Haunting.

Honorary mentions go to these light yet poignant “beach reads” about worthwhile complicated relationships:

Stay tuned for my “Best of” movies edition next week!

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What was the best part of your day?

Intentional Conversation Finding Tiffanys Blog

“How are you?”

“Good. Busy. How are you?”

It’s an obligatory cycle.

But how often are we really “good” when we say that? How often is “busy” even an accurate reflection of our lives? Does posing the question, usually as we walk past someone, really communicate interest or value? Do we really want to know or give a real answer in the first place?

I find myself both frustrated and conditioned for this automatic exchange, these catchall phrases that don’t seem to add depth to our conversations and relationships…with others or ourselves.

Which is why I loved this blog post by Be More With Less:

Let’s stop telling each other how busy we are. That conversation isn’t helping us connect, or become less busy. Talking about busyness makes me feel busy, even when I’m not. Instead of “how are you?” I am going to ask people, “What was the best part of your day?” or “Who or what made you smile today?” or “What will you remember about this week?”

I can’t wait to add these questions to my daily life. To make time to really listen to the answers. To assume someone wants to hear mine.

Check out Courtney’s full post here for more good stuff about pushing back on busyness and living intentionally.

A little book review or two

A few weeks ago I attended a Social Media Club of Dallas meeting in which a local content marketing expert Jerod Morris encouraged the audience to get out there and watch TV marathons, blog, and read. Generate ideas, get the creative juices flowing and be inspired. I took this to heart and made significant efforts to read more, this includes the design blogs I love so much, fashion bloggers to idolize, advertising and marketing articles and trying to keep up with day to day news and events (oh, I also treat myself to many a TV marathon on Netflix..for ya know, research purposes…). As a result, an amazing thing happened!

For us book nerds, there are few things greater than finding a story that you simply can’t put down. The kind that you read at traffic stops and make you consider canceling on happy hour for an even happier hour at home in bed turning the pages. They keep you up late and are quite time consuming, but you love them.

Well, I was fortunate enough to have two of those back to back. IT’S A MIRACLE.

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The first was Lit, a memoir by Mary Karr. The story line follows her starting as a post high school grad drifter to her struggles with alcoholism to her marriage to her first child and how she got (and continues to get) through all of it. The story line itself was great and took an unexpected turn into her struggles with faith (unexpected because I didn’t read what the book was about before I read it) and how it eventually pulls her out of a darkness. Mary Karr wields words like nobody’s business. A poet at heart, her sentences grab you. They are so powerful, so beautiful. My mom had recommended the book to me, and I would often call her and read a line and just be so taken back by its power. Okay, so that’s Lit. Read it.

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The next is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. A book recommended to me by a friend. She was so determined to get me to read it, she immediately mailed me her copy straight from NYC once she finished. Like Lit, I didn’t read what the book was about before I started. OH MY GOD. Sooo good!! There’s very little I can say about the book without giving anything away. But let’s just say the twists and turns are incredible and that this was definitely one I read at stoplights. It’s basically about a wife that goes missing and her husband is left to face the police and the public… that’s about all I can say. That was a super vague review, but just know that you’ll love it.

Now I am on to Looking for Alaska by John Green (yes, author of The Fault in Our Stars). A brief summary:

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words–and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

I started it just the other day and am loving it so far! What to read next though…

Funny is an understatement

I really tried.

Today’s Blog Everyday in July prompt has to do with funny things on Pinterest. But everyone’s pinning humor must have been at an all time low around 6:30 p.m. on a Friday, because after fifteen whole minutes, all I could find to crack a smile at was this:

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Photo from Katelyn Annyce

However, this is a perfect opportunity to share my latest read, and the most hilarious, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.

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It’s been years since I’ve laughed so hard I cried, so the fact that I’ve cried from laughing during this book more than once is really a testament to The Bloggess. The book dedication sets the stage quite nicely:

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Photo from Buzzfeed

Thanks to this book’s combination of completely absurd and inappropriate situations + descriptive story-telling, I’ve literally had to stop reading because I hurt from laughing so hard.

I highly recommend you read it this summer, or how about right now? I’d love to know what you think!

 

Allieology

Knock knock.. you there right side?

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It’s been 6 days since my return to the real world and things are just now starting to get back into a normal routine. Since I opted to go relax at a lakehouse this weekend and therefore postponing the necessary post trip “getting my shit together” for another few days, I am only now settling in to real life. My laundry is done, my cold is gone, I no longer feel like a zombie and the song “I can see clearly now” is playing in my head. Perhaps a weekend of hiking, hammock-ing, and tanning by the pool with my boyfriend, my dog and a few friends was just what the doctor ordered. And that brings me to tonight. Tonight is the first night that I can actually relax. On my own. In my pj’s Well, almost.

The only thing still on vacation is the right side of my brain. My left side is totally here making list, putting in maintenance requests, ordering new credit cards and IDs and establishing new budgets. But that damn right side is still over in Paris – or maybe it was stolen with my wallet in Sevilla? I am having the hardest time at work this last week coming up with an original idea. Pre-Europe Lydia loved brainstorming. I loved utilizing things I’ve read and compiling them to form one new amazing concept. Everything is taking me just a little longer since I must set aside time for staring at a blank screen wondering how I used to form sentences. It’s more than writer’s block. It’s a creative block.

Which brings me to my goal for the week. To get inspired. This entails sifting through the 100+ unread newsletters I have from a multitude of amazing idea-inspiring sites like PSFK, Fast Company (Design, Exist and Create.. I’m an addict), ColossalBig Think and the threads going in one of the many LinkedIn groups I stalk. I am not exactly expecting that I’ll walk into my office by Friday morning with a glowing light behind me and my head full of all-knowing knowledge (but that wouldn’t totally suck), but I am looking for a little spark. Like the lightning that comes down in War of Worlds to send a little driver into the ready and waiting machine that is my mind. That’s all I want. Juuuust a liiiiittle lightning.

Am I also subtly suggesting that you might also be interested in those aforementioned websites? You betchya. They’re awesome. Hop on my let’s-get-inspired bandwagon, flood those inboxes and let’s get those gears moving.

All, I have no idea where that War of Worlds reference came from. Do you see my problem?

Finding…mindfulness.

mind over matterliving in the present quoteSigh… Mondays.

See, I’m not usually one of those people who dread Mondays and complain about their jobs. But I’m not going to lie, I started this morning groaning out of bed and maybe getting just a little bit sassy at other drivers. But reality finally checked in, reminding me just how much I have to be thankful for. It’s easy to get bogged down in all the things that don’t go exactly the way I want them to, which in my case consists largely of having an uncomfortable, embarrassing and altogether exhausting allergic reaction going on the three month mark.

As an interviewee said on NPR this morning, and I paraphrase: It’s like when you’re driving. You don’t think much of the green lights because you just keep going. But those red lights make you stop, make you wait, can even make you late. People invariably end up saying, “Ahh I hit some red lights,” not “I hit some green lights.”

I know I need to spend more time meditating on my own green lights to get myself through the red ones. And I think practicing a little more mindfulness is just the thing to help me do that.

I’ve been reading a book called My Year With Eleanor, in which author Noelle Hancock writes, “Mindfulness is a technique where you concentrate on the present experience without judging or trying to control what is going on. To be fully aware….It helps you stay in the present, where fear does not exist.” One Apartment Therapy article calls mindfulness “an accepting and kind attitude toward yourself and your present moment experience…that will change your relationship to life.”

Here are some tips for practicing more mindfulness, which are all part of my plan this week to try staying gracefully in the present and practice more acceptance:

Change the day’s first words. Waking up and indulging groans and dread for the day sets my attitude, and therefore, perception for at least the next three hours. Complaining is a habit, and I’d like to train my brain to not jump straight into it every morning.

Put. the phone. down. How many times do I re-check email, refresh Facebook on my browser, scroll through Twitter, and when all that still fails to entertain, turn to other apps to see what latest GroupOns are featured and which new pug is on @PugsofInstagram, only to repeat the process? I waste so much time with absent-minded scrolling.

Be thankful for waiting. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of going and then get frustrated when something jars me out of that by making me wait. Instead, this moment that I can’t force into productivity is a fantastic opportunity to breathe and think without feeling guilty.

Dedicate time to just sit. Not in front of the tv, with a book, food or even a cup of coffee. Just me, being still. A word of warning, when you try this one in bed, at night, with a relaxing cool eye mask on…this also turns into a fantastic way to accidentally fall asleep. As I learned from personal experience.

What helps you relax and think more on the positive side of things?

Part Of Your Life

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While I will take any excuse to dress up, I admit I have never really gotten as sucked into the romantic hype of Valentine’s Day as I have into the fact that it’s just an excuse to reflect and celebrate. And that, I am all about.

No matter if you spent your Valentine’s by yourself or with friends, family, a love or even the love, I hope you take the time to read this card (courtesy of my roommate). I hope you reflect on what it means to really love the people in your life. And don’t forget the celebrating part!

As for me, I spent my evening avoiding persistent chocolate cravings (as I’m still holding strong to my decision to not eat dessert at all since January through March). I’ll also be hitting up the clearance aisle tomorrow with the hopes of scoring some Justin Biebers or other likewise completely ridiculous but amazing cards to hand out at my work’s official celebration next week. Wish me luck that the school kids haven’t taken all the good ones yet?

Oh and hey, thanks for being a part of our lives by reading Finding Tiffany’s!

Finding…Motivation.

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Is there anything quite as cozy as clutching a hot cup of coffee to warm up on a cold day?

I realized it’s been an awfully long time since my last “goal” related post. Perhaps not so coincidentally I’ve also been feeling uncharacteristically unmotivated lately. Quite frankly, I’ve also been scared to tell you all that I’m going to do something because, well….then I’d actually have to do it! This reality hit me hard this weekend when I woke up Saturday morning with precious hours to use however my heart desired…and all I could do was lay around in my bed thinking about how bored I was but how I was feeling too lazy to actually do anything to change how bored I was.

Snap out of it, self! It’s time for some tough love, so I’m waking up my brain to make some goals for this week and most importantly, share them with you.

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Stop thinking about how tired / sick / unattractive I feel. This week I’m having a plan of attack for those self-conscious thoughts that make me feel unmotivated and self-conscious. Whenever these thoughts come up I will replace them with something good like, “I’m tired” becomes “I am so grateful for friends who want to see me, the financial ability to do fun things and a job that leaves me feeling fulfilled at the end of the day.” As for the appearance thing, reminding myself that no one notices (or cares) about minor details or off-days like I do will help, along with countering those thoughts with something I do well that is far more important than looks like being nice, smiling, helping someone, etc. This pity party is over.

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FINALLY finish this book. I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me every time I open up The Tipping Point and start reading. I just love Malcolm Gladwell’s analytic yet engaging writing style. The problem is, every time I do get motivated enough to open the book (it’s quite daunting when I think about all that’s left to read) it’s usually on the later side and I end up falling asleep within a couple pages. As a result, it has taken me forever to get about 1/5 of the way in. This week I commit to start reading every day with the goal of reading 10 pages. Just 10, then I can decide to stop, keep reading, whatever I want. Take that, self-discipline.

I think that’s a pretty good start for now. I would also love to hear how you keep yourself motivated, re-motivate yourself, etc. Anyone else feel like they needed to recharge this Monday?