Favorite Books of 2018

I will readily admit that I fell short on my reading goal for 2018. I had hoped to read around a book a week (my number goal was 30 total). That worked pretty well through June and then things got crazy with lots of travel and graduate school. Since September I have only read three books. So throughout the whole year I read a total of 24 books (five of which were re-reads) and chose to include eight of those in this list of the best books I have read in 2018.

Educated by Tara Westover: Such a fantastic and inspiring memoir of a woman who grew up in a very religious family in rural Idaho. I listened to this as an audiobook and was thoroughly captivated the entire time. Tara’s story is heartbreaking, uplifting and inspiring all at the same time. It brought on so many emotions for me (it even brought me to tears at one point).

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrass Tyson: This is a short book that gives a great overview of general astrophysics concepts. It is so easy to read (especially if you have to background in physics) and incredibly interesting. I am so glad I picked it up because I feel like I learned a ton and didn’t have to work super hard to understand things.

Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall: I had no idea that this one would be more than just her life with the gorillas. It is so inspiring and uplifting (read my March Book Round Up for more on this one). I highly recommend it.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez: This one took be quite some time and focus to get into but the story is so very beautiful. My friend has told me its her favorite book several times so I finally got around to reading it. I seriously loved it and it will probably be one of my favorites as well!

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: In all honestly I am mostly remembering the show for this one since I read it so early on in 2018. I do remembering really liking the book though. Liane Moriarty’s style of writing was refreshing for me and the characters were so intriguing. I will say that I did not like Madly Truly Guilty nearly as much.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman: I did an entire book review on this one so I won’t go to into detail. This story did a great job of reminding me to appreciate and understand where I come from and to change my outlook on the future by accepting that I can’t control everything.

Circe by Madeline Miller: This story of Circe (the Greek goddess) was a recommendation from Bad on Paper Podcast and I am so glad they chose it. The tragic and beautiful story of a underdog goddess, looked down upon by many, is told in full. I think this is my favorite fiction read of the whole year!

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green: This is the most recent book I read and I really enjoyed it. I have been excited for Hank Green’s book for a while and for me it lived up to that hype. I don’t want to give anything away so I will only say that it is about this girl, April May, and her journey to fame through her discovery of a stature in New York City (yes that sounds vague but just read it!). I will say that it took me a while to get through. I am not sure if thats because I’ve just been busy or because I took a while for me to really get into.

Thanks for reading and I would love to hear what your favorite books from 2018 were. I am always looking for new things to read! Happy reading!

Erin

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Fun Games for Everyone

Aside from skiing, my favorite holiday activity is definitely playing board games. Games are a great way to bring people together and just have some fun. It can also be a good activity that doesn’t bring up any controversial issues at family events (make sure you choose your games wisely though). There are so many games out there these days so choosing a good one can be tough. Here I have compiled my favorites for the holiday season. All are great for larger groups and the level of competition varies from collaborative (Forbidden Island) to fairly competitive (Sushi Go!). I also threw in Cards Against Humanity and What Do You Meme? which are both hilarious card games for adults (great for dinner parties and gatherings with friends).

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Sushi Go!: I love this one because you can play with anywhere from 2 to 8 people. It involves both strategy and luck and can be on the more competitive side but is still super fun. The game changes quite a bit with numbers but that is part of the fun! It is a very fast paced game that can be difficult to learn but is quick once you get the hang of it. I recommend getting Sushi Go Party because it allows for many different variations of the game.

Settlers of Catan: This is a fun strategy game that is fairly easy to learn. The draw back of this one is that you can only have 4 players and it can take a while. Play is generally slower and moves take more careful, thought and strategy.

Forbidden Island/Desert: Both of these are fun collaborative games that require everyone to work together in order to win. They are harder to learn because there are lots of things happening and different players have different rules associated with them. There are player limits which can be a downside and it takes on average around 30 minutes to play a game. This is a great option if games easily cause too much competition. As a side note this is one of my favorite games of all time!

Balderdash: I was very reluctant to play this game but when I finally decided to play it ended up being super fun. It is a great way to really get people out of their comfort zones. It is all about improvising and making up words or stories for obscure words. Game play is longer but is not difficult to learn!

Clue: Forever a classic but I had to include it because it is another one of my all time favorite games. There is a lot of suspense and it can be competitive but I think it is generally very fun and pretty easy to learn.

Hedbanz: This is a fun one for large groups of people. There are lots of different versions (I really like some of the apps as well), it is fun way to laugh with everyone. It is also a great way to get everyone to loosen up and have fun. Game play per round is relatively short (depending on how fast people guess) but you can play for as long as you like.

Boggle: Boggle is such a fun word game! There are lots of app versions but the physical Boggle game can be a fun way to get everyone to participate. It is super easy to learn, easy to play and each round is short. I am very excited to try Big Boggle!

Telestrations: This might be my number one pick for family games. It requires little instruction and can be easily played with all generations and still be hilarious. It is kind of like the telephone game (where you whisper a word/phrase and it goes around the circle) but you are interpreting your neighbors interpretation of a statement or drawing.  You do have to be able to write and draw so its not for younger kids.

Cards Against Humanity: I probably don’t have to say much about this one. Most people are at least semi-familiar with this hysterical game. I would say the family friendly edition is Apples to Apples (this is definitely for adults).

What do you meme?: This one is actually very new to me but I am convinced that it is the best game for large groups of people. It is very similar to Cards Against Humanity but you are captioning a population meme. Seriously, so so funny. While it is great for friends, I am not sure it would be the best for families (different generations).

I hope you enjoyed this list and it gave you some ideas for what to do over the holidays! Let me know if you have any good ones that I missed!

Erin

 

Holiday Wishlist

I decided not to do gift guides this year because there are so many out there and gifts can be really personal (this year lots of mine are specific to the person). I might do them in the future but for now I decided to make a holiday wish list. This can still give others an idea of what to ask for and what to give. Mine is definitely general and I am not expecting to get everything (or even anything) but these are some things I have been wanting for a while.

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  1. Align leggings: I don’t need to say much about these but I love Lululemon leggings and I wear leggings almost every day so I am really wanting to try the align tight. This photo is of Zella leggings which are amazing too!
  2. Superga sneakers: These have been in my Nordstrom cart several times but I have just yet to pull the trigger. I know I would wear them a ton and have been on the lookout for some good, comfortable sneakers for a while.
  3. Kitchen Aid mixer: I did not actually ask for a kitchen aid this year but it is on my long term wish list so I wanted to include it.
  4. Cozy hoodie: There are a couple of hoodies that I have had my eye on and this Eberjey one looks especially comfy!
  5. 2019 planner: I didn’t specify exactly which one but I definitely like to have a paper planner to organize my days. It helps especially with the longer term things.
  6. Smoothie blender: An easy way to make healthy breakfasts is becoming necessary for grad school!

Happy Holidays!

Erin

Holiday Movies

Last week did a quick post on my favorite show to watch during the holidays and I also wanted to do a post on holiday movies. There are so many! Here I include several classics and several newer movies that make for a great holiday night with loved ones (or by yourself!). I have actually watched quite a few Hallmark Christmas romances, however here I am choosing my favorite holiday movies overall so I am not really going into those. Instead I chose three holiday romance movies at the end.

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Classics

Its a Wonderful Life: A true Christmas classic. This is one of my dad’s favorite movies so I had to include it. I won’t go to into detail but make sure you watch all the way through. There are some sad parts but the end is uplifting!

Home Alone: Such a classic, you really can’t go wrong with a night of ice skating, cookie baking and watching Home Alone. Although I was kind of terrified of these movies when I was younger, now they are so fun to watch at this time of year.

Elf: I don’t know why but this movie quickly became the go to in our house around Christmas. We watched it every year for at least 10 years (and probably more than once every year).

Santa Claus is Coming to Town: I highly enjoy the animations and the songs in this movie. It is a great Christmas classic, and good for kids!

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas: I have not actually watched the new one yet but I really looking forward to it. I have heard such great things. They older version is good but I always thought it was a little creepy.

Romance

Four Christmases: This romantic comedy is the perfect movie for some holiday laughs. There is family, romance and Reese Witherspoon. I highly recommend!

Love Actually: I really loved this movie. It is very heartwarming and beautiful but not naive about love. I just feel like the relationships are more realistic!

A Christmas Prince: Pretty much the definition of a cheesy christmas romance and I do have to say it is significantly better than other Netflix Christmas romance movies I’ve seen. The sequel is actually the most recent Christmas movie I watched and it was very cheesy but decent if you are looking for a feel good romance.

The Princess Switch: This movie is also very cheesy but I did end up thinking it was pretty cute. Its about a baker and a duchess who are related (and look the same) and everything that ensues when they find each other. There are some great nods to The Parent Trap which was fun.

As a side note I am really looking forward to watching The Christmas Chronicles (on Netflix) this year.

I hope you are enjoying the holidays!

Erin

Winter Wonder

Although I love fall, I am just as psyched about winter this year! I absolutely love the snow and everything that comes with it. Wintery days by the fire, holiday cheer and the new year! There are also so many fun things to do in the winter. It is strange because technically winter does not start for another week but we have had snow in Utah for several months now!

Snowflakes
Pine Trees
Sledding
Winter White
Snow Boots
New Years
Wood Fires
Fairy Lights
Christmas Trees
Puffy Jackets
Skiing
Evergreen
Baking cookies
Ice Skating

There are so many things to do this winter. I have so much planned for the holidays and then a busy spring semester starting in January!

Erin

Fall Feels

Autumn is here once again and I couldn’t be more excited about the change in weather. I love love love the cool crisp days and the winds that require warm drinks and thick layers. I love every season but fall is definitely my favorite. The colors are beautiful, the food is fantastic (gotta love anything pumpkin) and I love the holiday season. I am changing up the format of my seasonal goals posts to more of a ‘fall favorites’ type list. I would consider the start of fall to be right around now… I can feel it in cool mornings and the leaves are starting to change!

Crunchy leaves
Pumpkins
Apple picking
Shades of orange
Bean Boots
Halloween
Bonfires
Plaids
Cups of tea
Sweaters
Hiking in the clear cool air
Burgundy
Spooky movies
Long walks

 

Also, check out my 10 Halloween Movies for some more fall/Halloween inspiration. Cozying up with a good book or movie is another great way to get excited for this time of year.

Erin

Life is Crazy!

This whole summer has been crazy. So much travel, adventure and big life changes. I am actually leaving for the Bahamas tonight for my last big trip of the season. It is entirely for field research but should be fun! So overall life has just been super hectic lately. I am going to do a more detailed post when I get back however I just wanted to pop in and say hello… I have been very MIA lately. Some highlights have been my big Europe trip in July, backpacking adventures and a trip to New Hampshire in August as well as starting grad school! I actually just finished my first full week of classes and it was crazy. It has only been a little over a year since undergrad but I forgot how much time classes take. They are great so far though and I am really looking forward to the semester. I will also do some more detailed posts on grad school in the coming months. For now I am going to sign off because my flight leaves in three hours!

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Love,

Erin

Major Life Update

Clearly I have taken a major hiatus from blogging. I was starting to feel like I just did not have the time and was questioning why I was blogging in the first place. A big part of both being busy and questioning what I am doing began with a huge career step that I was not really expecting to happen right now. I will be attending Utah State University as a PhD student in a biology lab. My research focus will be looking at the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on the physiology of the Bahaman Rock Iguana. It is going to be a long but exciting journey that will likely take the next six years of my life. I will be moving up to Logan, Utah in early August. Working out the details for this has taken lots of time and thought which has led to some neglect in other areas of my life. I am very excited however and have begun to plan out and my lists of priorities for the coming year. I have the fall semester almost entirely figured out, including classes and research. The last piece that has caused some stress is housing in Utah. I did not realize just how hard it is to find housing when you don’t live in (or close to) that place. With most of the details fleshed out I have started to think about some other things, including my blog.

Over the past few days I sort of re-realized my reasons for blogging. I thought a lot about why I started this project in the first place. During my senior year of college I was feeling very burnt out and overwhelmed by work. I have always loved school but at this point it had begun to feel like work I had to do and not at all like what I wanted to be doing. I think there were many factors that contributed to this feeling that were both circumstantial and stemmed from my own mental state. As my future plans have solidified and I begin to prepare for the years to come I am realizing that I am jumping straight back into the world of biology and academia. I do love this world but I learned in college that I need to have a creative outlet that is not in that world in order to continue to be happy and productive. So in essence I am getting back into my blog but will be making some changes.

In 2016 I had started reading and exploring different blogs. I had started my own in December of 2016 but was really just experimenting. As the year progressed I realized how much I was in need of a creative outlet. There are a lot of things I wish I had done differently that year but now I am going to take this opportunity to change some things. While I very much want to continue blogging, I am going to change my posts a little bit. I want to put a lot more time and effort into single posts which is kind of tough considering I am about to be in graduate school. Because of that I will probably not be posting as much, but I will focus on quality. I also want to rethink my content a little bit, but I will do a bigger post on that in a few weeks.

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Erin