Bonus Blog · Books and Beverages

More Gadgets for Your Books and Beverages!

I did another gadget post like this one over a year ago, and in that time I’ve discovered a few more awesome things that I think book and beverage lovers will enjoy as much as I do.

Tea and Books Mug

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I found this mug from the Etsy shop, Lenny Mud. They also have a website. It looks like this mug isn’t available anymore, but they do have another really cute reading mug.

This mug is perfect for Books and Beverages and I had to have it. There are so many cute details included on the mug like it’s an actual book. The handle looks like pages and the opposite side looks like a spine. It’s so adorable!

Electric Kettle / Hot Pot

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When I’m too lazy to venture to the kitchen, or when I don’t want to wake everyone up with a kettle whistling, my electric kettle comes to the rescue. When I was living in the dorms I also used it to cook box mac and cheese and soup, so it’s really a versatile little device.

Amazon has a similar one here. (Gotta love Amazon!)

Kindle

I bought myself a Kindle before I went to Japan. I thought I would never use an e-reader, but I’m really glad I got my Kindle. It was so handy to have on the long airplane rides to and from Japan, and it was also great on the trains. It’s really lightweight and I could check out e-books from the library so that I didn’t have to buy or bring any books on the trip. My Kindle isn’t backlit, so it was a good thing I had my handy dandy reading light.

Additionally, since I moved I don’t have access to as nice of a library system, but I can still get e-books from it. Although nothing beats a physical book with pages, the Kindle sure has its advantages.

Bonus Blog

2016 Goals

firework 2
Happy 2016!

It’s hard to believe that it’s the last day of 2015. So many unexpected twists came my way, some good, some bad, and this blog happened to be one of them. (Don’t worry, it was one of the good twists.) I want to look back on 2016 in a similar way, so that’s why I’ve decided to set some New Year’s resolutions/goals. You, my readers, will help keep me accountable.

Blog Goals

I want to have better quality posts for 2016, and I think that starts with not procrastinating. To force me to write posts sooner and have more time to revise them, all posts will go up at noon Pacific Time (3 pm Eastern Time) on their respective days.

I’ve noticed that jewelry tutorial posts are pretty popular, so for 2016 I’d like to have more of them. Every third Tuesday, I will publish a new jewelry tutorial post.

I’ve also noticed that my Pintertest series is lacking a bit, so every second Friday, I will publish a new Pintertest post.

Other Goals

In 2015, I read 24 books, or an average of two a month. For Goodreads’ 2016 Reading Challenge, I’m planning to set a goal of 36 books, or an average of three a month. That way, there will be about three books in each of my Books and Beverages posts.

I’m also planning to get back into running, and I’ve set a goal of 300 miles for 2016. Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in some occasional running bonus blogs!

It looks like I’ve got my year cut out for me! I’m planning to stay on track with the help of Habitica (formerly HabitRPG), which is an app that helps keep you motivated to do things. I’ve been using it since 2014, and it turns your life into a role-playing game where you earn coins by checking off tasks. With the coins, you can buy things for your avatar, or rewards for yourself in real life, like cookies. It basically turns that boring to-do list into a fun game.

What kind of goals or resolutions are you setting for 2016?

Bonus Blog · Books and Beverages

Gadgets for Books and Beverages

LED Reading Light and Tea Buddy

I wanted to lump these in with my last Books and Beverages post, but it would have made it a bit too long. So here they are in their own little bonus blog.

LED Reading Light (Mighty Bright XtraFlex2 Light)

I bought this for my trip to Hawaii, in case I wanted to read at night while my friend slept in the same room so that I wouldn’t keep her up with a bright light. It worked out well, and I even use it at home in the hopes that less light won’t prevent me from sleeping (melatonin and all that). The light has three settings, bright, less bright, and off. The less bright setting is still pretty bright, but doesn’t use up the battery as quickly.You can even buy an adapter separately if you don’t like using batteries. To use the light, you clamp it down to a bunch of pages, or the back cover for hardback books. It doesn’t mar the pages and stretches far enough up that it doesn’t get in the way of page flipping. I really like it and it can also serve as a flashlight. It’s pretty compact and can even stand on its own. Makes a great gift for book lovers and I think it would be great for in a dorm room. It comes in several different colors.

Tea Bag Buddy (Primula Tea Bag Buddy)

This thing is great. I use it mostly to put on top of my mug so that my tea doesn’t go cold as quickly. (So when I get distracted by a good book, my tea is still fairly warm.) It’s also great for holding the tea bag string so that it won’t drip tea down the side of the mug while steeping. On the packaging it shows that you can also use it to squeeze the last drop out of the tea bag, and as a place to set your tea bag down. It comes in pink, green, and white and is made from silicone. It’s pretty great, and I’ve had mine for over a year, so it’s pretty long-lasting too. And it’s easy to clean; you just need to give it a good rinse. It works best with tea bags with strings, but can still be used to keep your tea warm with string-less bags and loose leaf teas. Great for tea lovers.

Bonus Blog · Books and Beverages

Books and Beverages (#3)

I didn’t read as many books this month as I did in March or April. The three books in total came out to about 1,129 pages, so not a bad month reading wise. One was a fantasy, one a murder mystery thriller, and the other a young adult alternative history. Overall, a very diverse month.

Books

The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
“A book with more than 500 pages”
Originally, The Lord of the Rings was the trilogy I was planning to read for the Popsugar challenge. Then I read the note on the text at the beginning in which it says that The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy, but one big novel sometimes published as three separate volumes. (The movies, however, are a trilogy.) For accuracy’s sake, I decided to change it from the trilogy to the book with more than 500 words. Anyway, I really loved this book (meaning The Return of the King). There’s bromance and romance, but it adds to everything and makes you feel happy, and not at all a waste of words. A few times I had to set it down because I was scared of what would happen next, but I needed to know, so I had to keep reading for hope that it would be okay. Surprising twists caught me off guard several times and I was glad I hadn’t seen the movies yet because I think they would have ruined that initial surprise that wasn’t quite the same in film. There was only one loose end that didn’t get tied up, but Tolkien did that on purpose, and leaves it up to the reader’s imagination. Also, I cried at the end of the book. I didn’t find the ending itself to be intensely tear-jerking, but I think I cried mostly due to the fact that it was over. And I didn’t want it to end the way that it did, but it made sense. I think that’s all I can say without spoiling everything if you haven’t read the book or seen the movies. Overall, The Lord of the Rings is one of those books that helped me get through a bit of a rough patch. The best books are those whose meaning goes beyond the pages, and The Lord of the Rings certainly belongs in that category. Tolkien sprinkled little nuggets of wisdom throughout the book that everyone can benefit from reading.

Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs
“A book based on or turned into a TV show”
This is the first book in the saga surrounding the life and work of forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. They turned this into the TV show Bones, which is just finishing up its tenth season. I like the show better than the book, to be honest. This book reminded me a lot of the show Agent Carter in that the protagonist is a female trying to gain respect in a male-dominated profession. Brennan is convinced there’s a serial killer on the loose, but she doesn’t have enough evidence to convince the Montreal police, which is where the book is set. One scene in the book is a two-page dialogue about saws and how different strokes and types of saws leave certain marks on bones. Another two-page scene, the reader gets an in depth explanation on how Brennan photoshopped a picture to see more clearly a dental impression in a piece of cheese. If you’re really into forensics, you’ll probably find this interesting, but I thought it was a bit out of place in a novel. It does makes sense that Reichs chose to include these lengthy descriptions since she herself is a forensic anthropologist. The book was relatively entertaining, however, and did have a few shocking twists and turns. I also find the title to be very appropriate and clever. Deja Dead makes you think that there is recurring death, which ties in with the serial killer aspect. It translates into “Already Dead,” which ties in with the sad reality that while family and friends were looking for their lost loved ones, they were already dead.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
“A book set in a different country”
I’m pretty sure this is the first alternative history I’ve read. It takes place in England, Austria, and Switzerland at the beginning of World War I. It follows two characters, Alek and Deryn. Alek is Archduke Ferdinand’s son who flees his home after his parents are assassinated. Deryn is a girl who disguises herself as a boy to join the British navy. Anyone allied with Germany is called a “Clanker,” referring to their prowess with machinery and mechanical engineering. They have created large war machines that walk on two legs. The British, on the other hand, are called Darwinists for their prowess with biological engineering and creating living, flying war beasts that are their own ecosystems. The sequence of historical events is the same as occurred in real life, but the weapons are far more advanced than even anything that is now considered modern. It seemed to me that this book was more like the first half of a book as opposed to a whole book. It just felt really short.

Beverages

Tazo Organic Baked Cinnamon Apple Rooibos Tea
I don’t think I’ve ever had an organic tea before, and this one is delicious. The rooibos gives it a vanilla-y taste, so it’s like you’re drinking liquid apple pie a la mode. It pairs nicely with a good book.

Crystal Light Lemonade Mix
Lately it’s been pretty warm, so I’ve turned to lemonade to quench my thirst. This stuff really hits the spot and is less than 10 calories per packet. It’s great having a deliciously flavored beverage that you don’t feel guilty about afterward. And you don’t have to make gallons of it at a time like other lemonade mixes. It’s great on sunny days spent outside reading a good book.

I don’t know about you, but May went by really fast. In only two days it’ll be June already. If you’re curious to see what I’m currently reading, check out the sidebar and/or friend me on Goodreads. Also, follow me or come back on June 27 for the next Books and Beverages post!

Bonus Blog · Books and Beverages

Books and Beverages (#2)

Another month has gone by and that means it’s time for another Books and Beverages post. (Okay, this one’s a little late, but that’s because I was close to finishing a few books and I wanted to include them in this post, but wasn’t able to have them read by Saturday. Poor planning on my part.) I managed to read five books totaling 1,572 pages this month, which kind of boggles my mind because I’m pretty sure I’ve never read that many books in one month before. I’m trying to complete the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge, and so far I’ve read 8.67* of the 52 books. My Goodreads 2015 goal is only 15 books and that’s over half done.

Books

The Two Towers: Being the Second Part of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
“A book with more than 500 pages” *
The Fellowship of the Ring was my favorite of the books I read last month, and the same is true of The Two Towers this month. The first half follows the adventures of one group of characters, and the second half another group. There are unexpected friends and alliances that come along, all boiling up to the exciting end. If you don’t like cliffhangers and are reading the book as three separate volumes*, then have The Return of the King ready to go. This was the worst cliffhanger I’ve encountered since I read The Mark of Athena; it may be even worse than that. Also, if you want to watch the first movie after reading the first part, you’ll need to read the first chapter of the second part, which Peter Jackson put at the end of the first movie.

Enclave by Ann Aguirre
“A book set in the future”
At the beginning of this book I wasn’t too sure if I was going to like it, but as the story progressed, it got more interesting. It’s set in post-apocalyptic New York where society has fallen to pieces. In the subway system underground resides several enclaves where life is totalitarian and they’re told to fear the world above them. Deuce lives in one such enclave called College where she becomes a Huntress to protect her enclave from Freaks, which are basically zombies. She gets exiled Topside with her hunting partner Fade, and realizes that what she was taught about the world above was not true at all. I found this book to be a fairly accurate description of what could happen in a post-apocalyptic world.

Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
“A book you started but never finished”
I tried to read this in the eighth grade when I wasn’t really interested in reading adult fiction, so I quit reading it. The story starts out on a plane where suddenly passengers vanish, leaving their clothes on their seats. No one quite understands what’s going on, and soon enough it seems the only possible explanation is that the Rapture occurred and those whose faith was on the rocks were left behind. Events soon take place that are described in the book of Revelation and eventually an Antichrist rises to power. Although we have no idea if, when, or how the Rapture will take place, I thought that this offered an interesting hypothesis as to what could happen, if one interprets the Bible literally.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
“A book that was originally written in a different language”
This was another mystery/thriller book that I enjoyed, and it definitely was very thrilling and mysterious. It begins with Blomkvist, a shamed financial journalist who’s been convicted of libel and sentenced to prison, even though he knows the man he tried to expose, Wennerstrom, is indeed doing illegal business practices. He’s asked by a very prestigious business man by the name of Vanger to look into the disappearance and suspected murder of his niece, Harriet, a case that has been cold for several decades. He thinks that someone in his family may have killed her. Vanger had an extensive background check run on Blomkvist by a young woman named Lisbeth Salander who can find people’s deepest secrets. Eventually, Blomkvist and Salander meet up and together work on the mystery of Harriet’s disappearance. Overall, a very interesting and intriguing book.

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
“A book you can finish in a day”
I tend to be a slow reader, so for this particular challenge I knew to pick a pretty short book and this fit (about 60 pages). This story follows two cowboys, Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist. They find work ranching sheep one summer on Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming and soon realize that they are in love. Four years pass before they see each other again, and both are married with children. They can’t deny their love for each other and they get together often, telling their wives they’re going hunting or fishing. Ennis’s wife figures it out after she sees them kissing and divorces Ennis since he isn’t being a good father either. The two of them try to keep their secret in a society where men are killed for being gay. If you’ve seen the movie, you know this book has a sad ending.

Beverages

Pineapple and Banana Juice Stuff
There’s a recipe that I found in a booklet that came with a blender and I decided to try it out. It consists of pineapple, pineapple juice, and a banana. You blend it together to make this sort of juice, and it’s really good. It seems like it would really hit the spot on a hot day.

Peaberry Dark Kona Coffee
I got some of this stuff when I was in Hawaii, and it’s great. It’s really smooth and not very bitter, so it requires little, if any, cream or sugar. I’ll be sad when it’s gone.

If you’d like to read last month’s Books and Beverages, click here. You can look forward to the next one on May 30!

Edit: *Originally, The Lord of the Rings was the trilogy I was planning to read for the Popsugar challenge. Then I read the note on the text at the beginning in which it says that The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy, but one big novel sometimes published as three separate volumes. (The movies, however, are a trilogy.) For accuracy’s sake, I decided to change it from the trilogy to the book with more than 500 words.

Bonus Blog · Travel

Spring Break: Hawaii

I don’t usually do anything interesting for school breaks, but this spring break one of my friends invited me to go to Hawaii with her. Naturally, I took her up on the invite.

Yellow Hibiscus
I was expecting to see luscious tropical vegetation at every turn, but there was a lot of brown grass like you might see in a desert. I guess this is the volcano’s fault.

There are a lot of things that still don’t make sense to me about Hawaii.

  1. Why isn’t Honolulu on the big island? I’m sure there’s some reason, so if you know it, I’d love to learn something new.
  2. Hawaii is part of the US, yet if you need medical care, you’re probably better off on the mainland. Seriously, why are there not more doctors in Hawaii? Who wouldn’t want to get paid tons of money as a doctor and live in an island paradise? It’s a win-win.
  3. Parts of the big island are pretty much all brown. I understand about the volcanoes and such, but I was kind of surprised when we got there and it was more brown than green. I was expecting green, not a desert.

Now that those are out of the way, let’s get into the details. I did a lot of fun things like look at a volcano (sadly, no lava), boogie board for about five minutes, eat some Hawaiian shave ice, watch a sunset, tan on the beach, tan by a pool, snorkel and look at fish, and whale watching. I also bought a sun hat. (I recommend buying one before leaving because it will be at least $5-$10 cheaper, depending on the hat.) I will spare you all the boring photos I took and simplify it down to the handful of my favorites.

Here are some pretty palm trees by a pretty ocean view. I was very happy with all the green in this area.
Here are some pretty palm trees by a pretty ocean view. I was very happy with all the green in this area. Past the palm trees is a black sand beach. There was a trail to hike down to it, but we weren’t wearing good hiking shoes at the time.
A gorgeous sunset framed in between two trees.
A gorgeous sunset framed in between two trees.
The air coming from these vents was warmer than I expected. If you stuck your hand in one for long enough, it'd probably come out with a burn. The vents also stink like rotten eggs, which is something else you don't get from the picture.
The air coming from these volcanic steam vents was warmer than I expected. If you stuck your hand in one for long enough, it’d probably come out with a burn. The vents also stink like rotten eggs, which is something else you don’t get from the picture. (See how brown it is?)
The beaches around Kona are known to be shark-infested, so the locals leave them to the tourists. We'd been boogie boarding for five minutes before they called everyone out because a shark was sighted. That's how I was able to get a picture of a beach without any swimmers or tourists in it. No sharks in this shot either.
The beaches around Kona are known to be shark-infested, so the locals leave them to the tourists. We’d been boogie boarding for five minutes before they called everyone out because a shark was sighted. That’s how I was able to get a picture of a beach without any swimmers or tourists in it. No sharks in this shot either. 
This is a what a whale looks like when it's breaching. We couldn't get any closer because the waters were getting choppy. It was a wonder I didn't drop my camera in the water.
This is a what a whale looks like when it’s breaching. We couldn’t get any closer because the waters were getting choppy. It was a wonder I didn’t drop my camera in the water.

There you have it. My final verdict is that Hawaii is dangerous. You could burn your hand in a steam vent, get eaten by a shark, drop your camera off the side of a rocking boat, and never want to return to the mainland. I highly recommend going. (I apologize for the lack of tropical fish pictures. Somehow I couldn’t get my camera to work under water. Technical difficulties.)

Bonus Blog · Books and Beverages

Books and Beverages (#1)

I’m back from the short hiatus with the first in a new series of posts. I figured I’d give this a shot to branch out a bit from my usual beading and baking posts. I don’t want my blog name to limit me to what I can post. I also don’t want to change the name because I really like it and it took me a lot of brainstorming to come up with. Anyway, in these new Books and Beverages posts, I’ll clue you in as to what I’ve been reading and drinking recently. You can expect a new Books and Beverages post on the last Saturday of every month at approximately 2 pm PT / 5 pm ET. And so it begins.

Books

A little while ago on xo, Yvette, she mentioned the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge. It sounded pretty fun to me, so I decided to give it a go. On Goodreads, my 2015 goal is to read 15 books, compared to the 52 books for the Popsugar challenge. So I know I’ll get to at least 15 of the 52 books, and I’ve already completed five. If you’d like to keep up with me on Goodreads, check out the sidebar.

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner
“A book a friend recommended”
This was a pretty quick read. Each chapter was an anecdote of something the author had learned from her experiences. Her mother passed away and she got divorced and soon found that she had lost touch with God. She struggled through these rough times and eventually became an Episcopal priest. Overall, an interesting story of triumph.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
“A book with magic”
Never in a million years did I think I’d ever read a book about faeries. This is the first in a trilogy, and I hope the other two books are better because I didn’t think this one was all that great. Two of the main themes of the book were science vs. art and technology vs. nature. It seemed to be very one-sided in these issues, praising art and nature and condemning science and technology. I’m hoping as the series progresses it becomes more balanced.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
“A book with a number in the title”
I never read this book in high school and felt that I was missing out. The challenge gave me the perfect excuse to read finally read it. It was a really short read and I liked how it got to the point. Although I’m sure it would have been nice to read this in a classroom setting where everyone can share their opinions, I’m glad I got to read it on my own and didn’t have to write an essay on it, just a paragraph in a blog post.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo
“A mystery or thriller”
There are actually a lot of books on my list for this challenge that could classify as a mystery/thriller. I figured that I enjoy enjoy watching mystery/thrillers, so hopefully I’d enjoy reading them as well. And I did indeed enjoy The Godfather. I’ve heard the movie is good and I’ve always wanted to watch it, but of course I had to read the book first. It reminded me a bit of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire in that there are several families in a power struggle, the major difference being the time periods and the technology associated with them. Oh yeah, and The Godfather doesn’t have magic or dragons or white walkers.

The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
“A book with more than 500 pages” *
The first part of The Lord of the Rings.* Finally I’m getting around to reading this and eventually I’ll watch the movies too. This is my favorite so far, probably because it’s a good fantasy novel. I now understand some LOTR references and it makes me really happy because I feel like a true nerd. I will say that reading about Frodo and his journeys has made me want to go on a long hike really bad.

Beverages

Tea. I’ve been drinking lots of tea. I could list off all the teas I’ve had in the past month, but that would make this post unnecessarily long. Recently Starbucks started offering Teavana brewed teas in their stores. I’ve always wanted to buy some Teavana loose leaf tea because it seems good, but I didn’t know what kind to buy. So I’ve been sampling the teas from Starbucks and there a couple that I’ll have to buy to brew at home.

Pineapple Kona Pop
This herbal tea really does taste like pineapple, and it smells amazing. I also love it because it’s so unique. How many other brands make a pineapple tea? It’s definitely something different from all the typical tea flavors out there, which is one thing I really like about Teavana. I highly recommend trying this one, especially if you like pineapple. (Photo is from Starbucks website.)

Passion Tango
This is another herbal tea. It’s got a great fruity flavor with a hint of cinnamon. At first I wasn’t sure how the cinnamon was going to work with it, but it really did. It adds another layer to the tea that keeps you going back for more. (Photo is from Starbucks website.)

That’s all for now. I won’t be taking another hiatus for a while, so no worries there. In fact, I’ll be posting some time next week about what I did during the hiatus. I hope you like pictures of tropical landscapes, volcanoes, beaches, and sunsets over the water.

Edit: *Originally, The Lord of the Rings was the trilogy I was planning to read for the Popsugar challenge. Then I read the note on the text at the beginning in which it says that The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy, but one big novel sometimes published as three separate volumes. (The movies, however, are a trilogy.) For accuracy’s sake, I decided to change it from the trilogy to the book with more than 500 words.