Thursday, November 29, 2012

Froggie v.36.12 (a.k.a. - My Erev Birthday)

Tomorrow is my birthday. 

Since today is (was) Thursday and it was my turn to pick the topic for my Thursday Blog Group I told everyone the topic was "freestyle" and they could pick what they wanted to write about.  I choose this topic because I knew I wanted to write my annual pre- (erev) birthday wrap-up and having no strict parameters around the topic would allow me to do this without having to write two posts in one day. 

(You may call it being lazy, I call it being efficient.)

So, my birthday is right around the corner.  In past years I dreaded my birthday, however this year I welcome it with open arms.  This might have something to do with the past 365 days being so amazing.  Now, don't get me wrong... not all of the days this year have been rock star days.  However, a good majority of them have been pretty fantastic and filled with some amazing surprises.

Over the past 12 months I have completed 14 5k races and 1 10k race.  My time during these races has gone done by almost 8 minutes.  I've raced in almost every neighborhood I've lived in over the past 10 years and even traveled out-of-state for one.  Also, my goal to complete 12 races this year helped me shed 10 pounds off my body and inspired me to not only continue to work more diligently at not letting the cold winter weather bring those pounds back, but also work at dropping even more pounds.

Over the past 12 months I have done my fair share of  traveling (something I haven't done a lot in a very long time).  I've taken chances that I never thought I would.  Though some of them didn't workout, I hold no regrets for trying.  

I had a beautiful and loving cat come into my life, suddenly.  What was suppose to be a "trial" situation became permanent just seconds after she exited her carrier.  She has made me into a proud "cat lady" and I couldn't imagine not having her roaming my home seeking out her next yarn score.  (Yes, E is a yarn addict, too!)

This year, I discovered a passion for reading that has had a huge impact on my life.  I also rediscovered why I majored in Advertising/Public Relations.  I've created opportunities that showed me it is possible to get paid to do something you love (this is something I never thought I'd experience.)

I could go on, but I think you get the point... it was an amazing year.  I have been very blessed this year and am thankful for all that I have been given.  I will always look back fondly on this years, however tomorrow starts a new year and a new adventure (which I will talk more about, tomorrow).

So with a smile on my face and an open heart, I look toward the next 365 days and hold high hopes for the potential it has to offer.

Now that I have written my "freestyle" Thursday Blog Group post, please take a moment to see what my fellow bloggers have to say:

•   Mom of Many (Susanna)

 •  Momarock (Sara)

•  Merryland Girl (Melissa)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: 365 Thank Yous (Audio Book)

This past June the radio unit that had been in my car for as long as I've owned it died.  I was upset about this happening.  Though I had wanted to replace the unit for a long time I could never justify the expense of replacing it. There always seemed to be something more important to put the money towards.  Even though the alternative to not replacing my dead the unit was total silence while I was in the car I was still upset about this happening as it was "pricey" to replace it. However, what made me even more miffed was my belief (whether valid or not) that the sole reason it died in the first place had to do with my friend futzing around with it just a few weeks prior.

Recently while making my way to West Lafayette, IN I listened to the audio book, 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralik thanks to the usb plug on my new car radio unit which allowed me to plug-in my smartphone and play files from it.

I had found out about this book due to some research I was doing for a freelance Public Relations job on the topic of gratitude just days prior to my trip.  As part of the piece that I was putting together, I was asked to highlight some books on the topic and came across this one on a GoodReads list of top rated books on gratitude.  Since I knew I was making the trip to Indiana and had an Audible credit waiting to be used I picked up a copy... and am I ever glad I did!

After experiencing a string of bad luck, one day John Kralik had a revaluation.  He would write a thank you note every day for a year hoping to gain a better appreciation for the things in his life that were good.  The book follows John's journey from the lowest moments of his life, through process of trying to write a thank you note everyday, to how writing these thank yous changed his life.

I loved this book.  I know what it is like to experience hard times and having difficulty finding something to be grateful for.  Been there, done that.  I appreciated what John had experienced, his candor about the struggles he had faced and related to his emotions.  (Publicly admitting such things can be difficult.)  I also appreciated the fact that he was open to the idea of thinking and viewing his circumstances differently.  Again - been there, done that. 

With all that in mind, I don't think this is just a book for people such as John and I who have faced adversity.  I think it a book that everyone can benefit from.  Personally, this story got me to think more thoughtfully about the thank you messages I send, and how I communicate them.  It helped me recall how much I love receiving thank you notes in the mail and would like to do the same for others.  Don't get me wrong, sending a thank you message in general is nice; however, there is something about receiving a note in the mail that makes the gesture that much more special . . especial in a world where a majority of our communication is done digitally.

This audio book was narrated by John Kralik.  At first when I listened to the sample of the book I was a bit concerned that I would turn it off as I couldn't decide if the narration would hold my interest, which is something I've had a problem with in the past.   However, this particular book is one that I would actually encourage you to purchase via audio book because I feel that the narration adds an additional layer of awesomeness to an already awesome story.  Actually, I got so drawn into listening to John that the miles between leaving my home and the Indiana state border escaped me.

My friend who contributed to the demise of my old radio unit gave me money towards the purchase of a new unit.  I sent them an e-thank you when I received their check.  However, it wasn't until my recent car trip that I felt the need to thank them for contributing to the demise of my radio, too.  The fact of the matter is that had my radio not died I wouldn't have purchased the nicer one that allows me to connect my smartphone to my radio.  If it hadn't of died, I wouldn't have been able to listen to this audio book during my drive to Indiana (and trust me when I say, it was this book that really made it an enjoyable trip).  With all that in mind, I must remember to send my friend a thank you note - soon.

Also, I'd like to send a thank you to John Kralik for sharing his story with me - and the many others who have read this book.  I am so glad I came across your book.  You are truly an inspiration to all and I am so glad that things in your life have turned around for the better.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Love It or Hate It - Black Friday is Here!

Today is Black Friday. 

In honor of Black Friday, and in keeping with the theme of shopping, for the Thursday Blog Project Susanna asked us to: share our thoughts on Black Friday. Love it or hate it, everyone has an opinion on it!

For many waiting in long Black Friday lines is exciting.  On my way home from Thanksgiving dinner last night I saw a massive line forming at a local Target.  Participants of Black Friday get excited by   waiting in lines for long periods of time in hope of getting a chance at a fantastic deal on a new TV, the hottest new toy or whatever the item they have their heart set on. 

Once upon a time I use to be one of those people.  Now, I just enjoy staying home the day after Thanksgiving with no pressure to get things done.  (Like I did today.) :)  Maybe it has to do with the fact that my family doesn't exchange Hanukkah presents.  Maybe it has to do with my love of online shopping and the fact that I can look forward to Cyber Monday.  Who knows! All I know is that I haven't participated in Black Friday in many, many, many years.

Regardless of your opinion regarding Black Friday, here is a little humor around the occassion:

Please take a moment to see what my fellow bloggers have to say on the topic of Black Friday:

•   Mom of Many (Susanna)

 •  Momarock (Sara)

•  Merryland Girl (Melissa)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Once A Yelper, Always A Yelper

What is your favorite place AND least favorite place to shop and why (for both)? 

That is the question Melissa posed to us for the Thursday Blog Project topic for November 15, 2012.

I'm a Yelper.  What that means is that I share my opinion of businesses on the website Yelp.  Beside sharing these opinions online, I also share them with friends and family.  

Honestly, it's hard for me to pick one place that is my favorite place to shop.  I even went back to my Yelp reviews hoping to find something that stood out as a STELLAR review, but alas there wasn't just one place.  On the flip side, I know which place I will never shop again...

Here is my Yelp review of the place I WILL NEVER shop at again....

"Grant's Appliances

I think Nancy Regan put it best when she said . . . "Just Say No!"

In true Grant's fashion there are no prices on anything in the store.  Everything is "packaged" together so the more you buy the better deal you'll get (in theory).  Negotiating your "package" is like negotiating the price of a car - time consuming.  Plan to bring a book, or whatever else will keep you busy while the sales person goes back-and-forth to talk with their manager.  If you do decide to buy from Grant's comparison shop first.  It helps with the negotiation process.

We had some problems with the install as the delivery guys wouldn't hook up the water line to the fridge for "liability reasons."  There was one additional problem with the install, but it's been so long I can't recall what it was.

As I said at the beginning of the review, "just say no" to shopping at Grant's Appliances."

Now that I have talked about my least favorite place I've shopped, please take a moment to read what my fellow bloggers have to say:

 •  Momarock (Sara)

•  Merryland Girl (Melissa)

•   Mom of Many (Susanna)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

BlogHer Book Club Book Review: "My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future"

On Thanksgiving it will be two years since I put together what I then called My Life Map.  I was in the midst of trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I "grew-up" and gave myself three options to explore.

As you might imagine, it seemed very appropriate when I recently got the opportunity to review the book, My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future by Kate Marshall and Dave Marshall.  

Unlike my "life map" project 2 years ago, this books provides individuals a more structured and thoughtful way to approach planning for the future... and even though I am less of a planner than I once was I still feel as though it never hurts to lay some sort of foundation for the future.

The first think I feel is important to note about this book is that it is not a traditional book.  As the title reflects, it is a journal.  The majority of the pages have spaces for the reader to write down their thoughts, feelings and aspirations.  I liked this.  Though some people could put something similar together, I liked the format Kate and David developed.

One thing that caught me off guard was that the program requires you to look back in order to plan to move forward.  I say this caught me off guard because I feel we are often told not to focus on the past and to only look at our present and future.  Also, for some looking back can be an emotional challenge they don't want to taken on.

Overall, I liked this program and can see where it would provide value to a person.  I don't know that it should be the sole structure for someone, but it is surely a useful tool.  The thing I liked the most about it was that it is a tool for people of any age.  Whether you're in your 20s just starting out or in your 50s starting over yet again this journal can be a good framework to use to get started with putting together goals you wish to achieve.

Lastly, I want to say that this is not a journal you can complete in just a couple of hours.  It takes time to really go through the steps which personally I think is a good idea since this is your future you're planning for.

Interested in learning more about the book, My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future?  Join the BlogHer Book Club discussion!

Disclosure: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: Baby Proof, plus a giveaway

***The giveaway is now closed***
Thank you to all those who entered!  
Please stay tuned for more book reviews from various genres and other giveaways.

 I first discovered Emily Giffin's books about six months before her third novel was published.  In some ways, the timing couldn't have been more perfect.  I had just finished falling in love with Rachel, Darcy and Dex and knowing there was another novel to continue my infatuation with Emily's writing was perfect since couldn't get enough of it.  However, in some ways I was a bit concerned.  After reading Something Borrowed, I at least had an attachment to and a vested interest in the characters in Something Blue; however, this time I would be venturing into a whole new world.  What if I didn't like the characters this time?  What if the storyline didn't interest me?  What if I didn't want to finish the book?

Thankfully, all my worries were put to rest rather quickly once I started reading Baby Proof.  In some ways I related to the central theme of the story - what happens when someone changes their mind on a significant life decision?  In other ways I couldn't.

From the very start of their relationship, Claudia and Ben agreed they didn't want to have children.  However, one day one of them has a change of heart, which significantly changes everything for them as a couple.  Suddenly, they have to figure out what this means for the future of their marriage.  Does true love conquer all?  Or, are some matters just too big to overcome?

From the get-go, I could tell these two characters really were in love.  So, when the bomb drops that one of them changes their mind about having children I immediately wanted to scream, "NOOOO!!!! How could you do that?" (Like these were real people who could hear me.)  From that point forward, I anxiously awaited every twist and turn this story had to offer.  I panicked that true love wouldn't prevail like it does in many of my favorite movies, TV shows and novels.

When all is said and done, I like how this story was tied together.   Additionally, I liked how the characters evolved over the course of story.  Part of me was satisfied with the "ending"; the other side not so much because Emily does end the story with some uncertainties about the future of these the characters.  At first I wasn't so thrilled with the latter, but then realized that that it made the story authentic.  The uncertainty of these character's future mirror the uncertain future we all face in real life.  Hopefully, Emily will bring back Claudia and Ben in one of her future novels, like she brings back a Something Borrowed/Something Blue character in this one.

How to win a paperback copy of Baby Proof
Please tell me, does true love always conquer all?  Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win. Entries without contact information will NOT be counted.

US/Canada only.  Giveaway ends November 18th at midnight EST.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Top Three

There is an episode of Friends where Ross creates a list of the top five celebrities he'd canoodle wiht if he got a chance.  It was this episode that inspired Sara to ask the group:  Who would be on your laminated top five list?

I have to admit, this was a bit difficult for me because I don't typically swoon over celebrities, however instead of five I came up with three:

Ira Glass:
For about four years now I've been a HUGE fan of This American Life which is hosted by Ira Glass.  That is how I first became fimiliar with.  Besides being a smart guy, he is also really attractive and I appreciate is dry sense of humor.

Jason Segel:

Since I was late to the How I Met Your Mother party, the first time I ever saw Jason Segel act was in the movie, The Muppets.

I was in love, immediately!

The I saw HIMYM, and fell even more in love.  ***SWOON!!!***  What I love about him is his wholesomeness.  In one of this tweets he asked fans if it they'd be ok with him dating. (Or something like that.)  Seriously, what celebrity doesn't that?

Oh, and did I mentioned how adorably cute he is???

Patrick Dempsey:
My crush on Patrick Dempsey formed long before he was "McDreamy" on Grey's Anatomy.... And it's still going strong!

Now that I've share my list of celebrity men I'd "canoodle" with, please take a moment to see what my fellow blogger have to say:

 •  Momarock (Sara)

•  Merryland Girl (Melissa)

•   Mom of Many (Susanna)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Review: Life Is A Test (Audio Book)

I've had the privileged of hearing Rebbetzin Ester Jungreis speak on two occasions.  The first was several years back, and the other this past September.

I have to admit, the first time I had no idea who the Rebbetzin was and why my friend who told me about the event was so insistent I attend.  However, by the end of the evening it was not a secret as to why.  So, when I heard she would be making an appearance again at a local shul, there was no question in my mind as to whether or not I would be in attendance.  Even if I had to move mountains, I would make sure I was at the event.

Now, I realize that this post is about the book, Life Is A Test, and not about the Rebbetzin's speaking engagements, however reading (or listening) to her book is just like being in the same room with Rebbetzin Jugreis.  The way she speaks to an audience is the same way she conveys her thoughts in writing - with warmth and compassion.

It's hard for me to sum-up this book because the subject matter in which the book deals with is so personal and complex.  Simply put, this book talks about the challenges people face in their lives and the various ways they can viewed and approached.  Furthermore, the book aims to drive-home the idea that no matter what the challenge may be, there is a reason the challenge has been placed before us.
If you are considering reading this book, please keep in mind that the book is written from an Orthodox Jewish perspective.  There are many references to the Torah, and the importance of Torah study is emphasized throughout the book.  Hopefully, that will not discourage you from reading the book.  Though I am Jewish, I am not an Orthodox Jew; however, I still found the Torah references interesting and felt they added a lot to Rebbetzin Jugreis' message.  Additionally, I learned a lot our Jewish history that I had not known before; which I always appreciate.

One criticism I've read about this book is that it is repetitive and that a lot of the stories are the same.  Though it is true that the stories are relatively the same, they are still unique in their own way.  Furthermore, sometimes, I believe, a person needs such repetition in order to learn really the lesson that is being put before them.  (At least that is what my life has shown me.)

Since I listened to the audio format of this book, I would like to comment on the narration piece briefly.  The audio version opens with Rebbetzin Jugreis making some opening remarks, however Mare Winningham is the main narrator.  Though I would have loved to listen to the Rebbetzin the whole time, I feel Winningham did a great job.  There was never a time I felt the need to turn off the book because I could not continue listening to her.

Lastly, I would like to say I am glad the Rebbetzin came back at the end of the audio book to narrate her final remarks.  It took me back to this past September's event.  As I listened intently, I felt her glowing spirit radiate through the speakers of my player.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Finishing it Off with the Perfect Bow

This week for the Thursday Blog Project, I asked the group to write about a fashion trend, or trends, they'd like to see come back in style.

My inspiration for the topic as a previous topic we wrote about.  It dealt with what item(s) of clothing would we not be caught dead in.

Funny enough, the trend I'd like to see come back in style is bow ties for non-formal occasions.

I realize that there are men that wear bow ties on a regular basis, but I'd love to see this as a trend that goes viral.  Though it does have a bit of a corny look to it, there is something classy about it that I feel can translate from fancy to casual attire.

Now that I've shown you what fashion trend I'd like to see come back in style, please take a moment to see what my fellow blogger have to say:

 • Merryland Girl (Melissa)

Mom of Many (Susanna)

 • Momarock (Sara)