“Travel the world through someone else’s eyes…” says the Periscope website.

Sign me up! This app connects you with other users and lets you experience different cities and events through their eyes. I popped on this morning to try it out and someone was on a ride at Magic Kingdom! It’s basically like watching a shaky iPhone home video of whatever the person you’re following is doing, but it’s real time which adds a bit of novelty.

National Geographic covered this app as well, noting their favorite ‘Scopers to follow were a safari leader in South Africa (@GerryVanDerWalt), a tour guide in Paris (@ClaireWad) and an American expat in Hong Kong (@PenguinSix).

The wanderlust lives on.

Source: Tumblr


2015 Challenge Complete

Happy 2016! It’s that time of year again… Time to set new goals, eat less Christmas cookies and start a new reading challenge. 2015 ended with a viewing of The Martian (it was great!) and Chicago Rising (it was not). I also finished Brooklyn to top off last year’s reading challenge. I expected it to be more mushy and romantic and was surprised to find it sort of logical and realistic instead! The descriptions of the difference between life in Brooklyn and small-town Ireland were my favorite parts of the book. This goes under a book that became a movie, and the movie is getting great reviews so I’m excited to see it!

Here are the books I read in 2015:

Brooklyn // Ten Thousand Saints // The Sun Also Rises

The Martian // How to be Both // The Girl on the Train

Unbroken // Me Before You // Quiet

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace // Dark Places

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone // Little Bee

Lake Wobegon // Tell the Wolves I’m Home

..Mission accomplished!

And on to the next one! I had some family members help me pick a few categories from Popsugar‘s 2016 list. More on that next time!




A Brief Review – Book #13-14

art, planet, and drawing image

I recently read two books about people trying to survive on different planets. One was Little Bee, about a Nigerian refugee who fled her war-torn country to find peace in London, a place so different from home it might as well have been another world. The other was The Martian, and the guy was literally on another planet.

I was surprised by these stories, both in how captivated I was with the writing and by how much I enjoyed them! I’m checking two boxes off of my reading challenge list:

A funny book – The Martian
A book you own but have never read – Little Bee

Little Bee was at times dark and depressing, but had so many uplifting moments of hope and determination that it didn’t feel like a generally sad book. The title character was a Nigerian refugee who ends up in London. You can’t tell much from the back cover, so it’s best to dive in and let the plot unfold as you go. Sad things happened, as did scary and heartbreaking things. But through it all, Little Bee’s sweet, innocent voice narrated as though everything would be okay. When she wasn’t narrating, the other main character (also female) took over. She was a funny, successful English mother who provided comic relief and sometimes hard truths. Her son, Batman, was my favorite character. Their stories are very much intertwined, and I loved watching them unfold. I would highly recommend this one – it was moving and smartly written!

The Martian was the first book in a long time to keep me on the edge of my seat. If you’ve completely missed previews for the blockbuster movie, it’s about a man who is left for dead on Mars. Spoiler alert: he’s alive. And trying to get back to Earth! I read this book on the train while biting my nails from worry. Who would’ve known that space exploration would be such a thriller for me? I did skim a majority (read: all) of the heavy science and math portions. They didn’t make sense and I assumed they never would, so I continued on to the bits that did. The main character, Mark Watney, is the smartest fictional character I have ever encountered, and had a great sense of humor. When I wasn’t nervously reading as fast as I could, I was laughing at his outrageous statements. It was the perfect recipe for me, a very non-scientific mind. I loved this book. Time to see the movie!


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che figata

It’s December and I’m reminiscing about my time in Italy earlier this year. I miss learning new Italian phrases and hearing the language every day. I’m craving the laid-back lifestyle, the complete understanding of the beauty in doing nothing. Maybe I’m just ready for a post-pasta nap.

Italian is full of beautiful phrases, some of which don’t have a literal or perfect translation to English. In fact, those are my favorite words to learn. Huffington Post listed 11 Italian phrases whose meanings run a little deeper than English words can handle. Check out the list and take a mini Italian vacation.


Source: Huffington Post

Paris is a Party

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.

I picked up A Moveable Feast from my shelf just over a month ago. I needed something new to read during my commute, and I’ve enjoyed Hemingway in the past. I figured I’d love his memoir about the years he spent in Paris. After finishing it, I thought for a while about what to write in my recap. I was still thinking about what to say on November 13 when terror shook the City of Lights, Beirut, and the rest of the watching world.

This book is nothing if not a love letter to Paris itself. Hemingway’s quote above sums up his feelings in one sentence. A few days after the attacks, NPR ran the story below. This memoir is flying off the shelves in Paris. It’s been placed at memorial sites, by the bars that were attacked and by the Bataclan. It’s a sign of resilience, defiance even. It’s a moving gesture, and so heartwarming in a time of real negativity. I can’t imagine what Parisians must be feeling in these days after the attack, but the message they’re sending is clear: they will be resilient.

The title of the memoir in French is “Paris est une fête” – Paris is a Party

A Brief Review – Book #12

In light of Halloween, I decided I would dive into a genre that makes me squirm…. Horror!

Then I thought to myself “who are you kidding?” and I played it safe and chose a Gillian Flynn novel instead.

Flynn has a dark, twisted mind so I felt her mystery novel, Dark Places, would absolutely fulfill the requirements for A Book That Scares You. It was creepy, demented and definitely had more gore-filled pages than I’m used to. Somehow, I powered through the whole thing without a single nightmare! It might have something to do with my long days and 5:15 a.m. alarm. When my head hits the pillow, there is absolutely nothing getting in between me and that deepest, deepest stage of sleep.

There were times, however, when I did put this book down just to watch a funny YouTube video or have a casual, non-threatening conversation with a nice human being. This story is full of suspicious characters with sociopathic tendencies – the occasional breaks were nice.

The main character in this novel is Libby Day. Her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered when she was 7 years old, and her only surviving family members are her father, a deadbeat, and her brother who ultimately was accused of the murders and sent to jail. The story flashes between the days leading up to the murder, changing characters to give you a full idea of where everyone was, and present day when Libby is convinced by a stranger to find out the real truth about that day. With references to satanic worship, weird sacrifices, and never a clear idea of who was involved in the murders, Flynn takes Creepy to a whole new level.

I’d recommend this book for fans of Gillian Flynn, who has mastered the characters who are deep-down psychos, and for people who like to solve mysteries. This one has plenty of eerie suspects, all with plausible motives. It’s also way better than the movie.

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Culinary Quito

National Geographic is coming in hot with a list of seven things to know about the cuisine of Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. My dad was born in Ecuador and I have a lot of family there still today, so I was thrilled to read this but it made me hungry.

Here’s their breakdown:

  1. Drink fresh juices or batidos, more like a shake
  2. Visit an open market for roasted pork or fritada, fried pork – In my house, fritada is like edible gold. There are NEVER leftovers and I’ve learned that the hard way. You snooze, you really lose. Once, my grandmother made fritada and I wasn’t home to eat it right away. I came home to my mom whispering “I hid some in the fridge for you…” She really loves me.
  3. Try the humitas, Quito’s most common tamale
  4. Surprise your palette with bright and tangy Ecuadorian ceviche
  5. Treat yourself to dulce de higos (figs) at Centro Historico
  6. Do as the Quitenians do and eat soup for lunch
  7. Expand your horizons with cuy! That means guinea pig… As a 12 year old on a family member’s farm in Columbe, Ecuador, I played with what I understood to be the farm’s cuddly pets. Understandably, I couldn’t get myself to eat it later. 

There are options for the simple eaters, and absolutely options for the adventurous ones. Tastes like home to me!

Source: NatGeo