Friday, December 27, 2013

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
I had only ever heard of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie, but had no interest in watching it and one day, months ago (maybe a year ago), my friend at work mentioned this book to me so I added it to my reading list. About a month ago the book and movie were brought up again at work in conversation so I decided I must read it immediately and see for myself what all the fuss was about. Luckily, I already owned it because I bought it months ago at a thrift store after having added it to my reading list (a common practice of mine) and oh is it good! I couldn't put it down and I even found myself thinking about it at work and anxiously awaiting the moment when I could be reunited with it to continue reading it. You know a book is good when your thoughts about it are competing with your thoughts about going to Zumba after work–something I love, but more about that another time.

I had been advised about the violence this book contained so I was prepared for it and, surprisingly, I handled it rather well. I mean I was creeped out and repulsed by it, but no nightmares. Thankfully the entire book is not like this, but it does have several episodes of violence, more specifically, violence towards women. In fact, this book's original Swedish title (the author was Swedish) was Men Who Hate there you go.

In a nutshell, this book is the first of the Millennium Trilogy written by Stieg Larsson. It is a fictitious crime/mystery/thriller novel that takes place in Sweden where journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired by a wealthy man to solve the mystery of the disappearance of his teenage niece from forty plus years ago. Mikael is later assisted by badass computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. 

I like the characters. They have depth and you become intrigued by them, especially with Lisbeth.

This book brings to light that even Sweden has it's problems, past and present. Besides the statistics about violence against women, I found it interesting that there was a Nazi movement in Sweden in the first part of the 20th century. Coincidently, I found an article about recent violence in connection to Neo-Nazis in Sweden. Now I don't know about you, but when I think of Sweden I think of that nation that is often referred to as the nation which has one of the highest standards of living in the world and where people are happiest, not one of violence and Nazis, but I guess no country in the world is perfect and immune to evil. Also, according to this book Swedes eat a lot of sandwiches and buy a lot of Ikea furniture, go figure!

I am already reading the second book in the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and I'm looking forward to figuring out who Lisbeth is. I moved the The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo movie to the top of my Netflix queue and it has now been sitting at the top of my DVD player for the last two weeks. I am trying to build up the courage to watch it. The book I could handle, the movie I am not so sure. I don't even like watching shows like CSI or Law and Order because of their violent themes.....Anyway this post is way longer than I intended it to be. If you're still reading, first, I wanna say thank you, second, I wanna say I really liked this book (I think I established that at the beginning). I think that any time you are both, entertained by a book and able to take something away from it is a double bonus!

Until next time!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Big, Fat, Greek Scrapbook - Part 3

This is Ios, our second island and third stop in Greece. What can I say, it is a party island, but besides the nightlife, Ios is known for being the place where the famous Greek poet, Homer, died and where he is buried. I wish I would have spent a little more time on this island.

Yes, we camped the first night.

Homer Monument - Ios Island

Leaving Ios for our next island!
Until next time!


Friday, October 25, 2013

I Don't Know About You, but I'm Feeling 22!

You know you're having a great day when you can't stop checking yourself out on the security camera at the store. Yes, this is a true story, it happened to me today! I was at the pharmacy counter of Walgreens checking in to get my flu shot when I caught a glimpse of myself on the security camera and then I just couldn't stop looking. It was the strangest thing because I usually avoid looking at those dreadful things. There's been countless times that I've looked and seen a big girl with frizzy hair at the bank or grocery store's camera only to look away horrified after realizing it was ME!! Today was different, I didn't recognize myself, but I liked what I saw.

Now allow me to back up for a minute. If you don't know me then you don't know that I've struggled with weight most of my life, so now you know.

This summer I was introduced to the South Beach Diet by my friend and co-worker, Tasha, and I was able to lose 20 pounds! I started on June 17th and lost the bulk of those 20 pounds at the beginning, but I have been beating myself up about not losing any more weight lately. I've only been maintaining the weight I lost and not trying hard enough to lose additional pounds.

These days my weight loss fluctuates between 20 and 23 pounds. This morning I was at 22 pounds and seeing myself on camera made me realize that, even though I have a long way to go before reaching my goal weight, I have come a long way and losing 20 pounds is a big deal. I look good dammit! Loosing weight is no easy feat, but keeping it off can be even harder so I need to be proud of myself. In Taylor Swift's words, "I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22!"

Until next time!


P.S. Yes, that is me attempting to take a booty shot :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Big, Fat, Greek Scrapbook - Part 2

After a few days in Athens (remember this is in the summer of 2008), my friend and I headed down to Santorini, one of the most beautiful islands I have ever been to and one of my favorite places in the world. As our tour guide said, Santorini is the island which has more churches than houses, more donkeys than people, and more wine than water. I am very pleased with the outcome of my scrapbook pages and I'm excited to be about half way done scrapbooking this trip from five years ago!

Until next time!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath, first published in 1939, is said to be John Steinbeck's greatest masterpiece. At the time, this book caused so much controversy that it was banned and even burned in some places due to its telling nature of what life was like for the poor migrant workers in California. The rich farmers were portrayed as greedy and ruthless and the government was portrayed as protective only of the interests of the wealthy and not of those of the poor. People thought this book to be inaccurate and overdramatized, but it was mostly the members of the Farmers Association of California who felt that way, go figure.

The main characters of the story are the Joads, a fictional family from Oklahoma forced to leave behind all they know because of the dust bowl of the 1930's. Like countless other families of that era, they go seek out the advertised opportunities of the promised land of California and journey across the country, but instead of finding work and a better life they only find "Okie" hatred, prejudice, and injustice.

"They were hungry, and they were fierce. And they had hoped to find a home, and they found only hatred. Okies—the owners hated them because the owners knew they were soft and the Okies strong, that they were fed and the Okies hungry; and perhaps the owners had heard from their grandfathers how easy it is to steal land from a soft man if you are fierce and hungry and armed. The owners hated them. And in the towns the storekeepers hated them because they had no money to spend. There is no shorter path to a storekeeper's contempt, and all his admirations are exactly opposite. The town men, little bankers, hated Okies because there was nothing to gain from them. They had nothing. And the laboring people hated Okies because a hungry man must work, and if he must work, if he has to work, the wage payer automatically gives him less for his work; and then no one can get more." Steinbeck, John. (1939). “The Grapes of Wrath.” Penguin Books; page 233.

I started reading this book a few years ago and had the hardest time getting into it. I wanted to give up on it more than just a few times, but as a Californian and more specifically, a Steinbeck country native, I feel it is my duty to read all Steinbeck literature. If not I would be like an Englishman never reading Shakespeare or a Spaniard never reading Cervantes and that simply cannot be. So instead of giving up on the book completely, I'd read as much as I could handle then put the book down.....for a month or two.

Eventually I would get to like the book and then love the book. When I got almost half way through it I started feeling like I was really getting to know the Joads (it's hard to keep the characters straight because there's so many) and I felt for them as they struggled every day to stay afloat; I admired their optimism about all the wonderful opportunities that were awaiting them in California (or so they thought); and I was terrified for them as they were nearing California because I had the sneaking suspicion that they were going to have to endure a lot of hardship in this dream land where they did not know they were not wanted; and lastly their courage to keep going after all the bad things that happen to them was very inspiring.

I'm not gonna lie to you, this book is a little depressing, it does, after all, take place during this nation's great depression, but you become invested in the characters and you start rooting for them and hoping they achieve their dreams, which are the most basic of dreams, like finding their livelihood, a home to call their own, and their daily bread. My heart ached for the Joads as they suffered through the trials and tribulations of that time which included, but were not limited to poverty and displacement, illness, hunger, and even death. Worse yet, they had to do it all in an unknown land far where they were despised, from home.

Though it took me a while, I fell in love with the Joads and their story because despite all the horrible things that happen to them, they try to keep the family together as much as possible and not only that, they remain kind to one another and to perfect strangers. I was especially moved by the constant generosity the Joads and the other families in their situation gave one another despite having close to nothing.

"Learnin' it all a time, ever' day. If you're in trouble or hurt or need--go to poor people. They're the only ones that'll help--the only ones." Steinbeck, John. (1939). “The Grapes of Wrath.” Penguin Books; page 376.

I know this book is required reading at some high schools and colleges, but it wasn't for any of the schools I went to and I’m glad. I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much back then as I do now. I highly recommend this book. It is reminiscent of some of the issues going on today in our country and around the world (like immigration issues and social and economic inequalities among others). As a forewarning, I want to add that this book may stir up many different emotions, but if not, at the very least it will be a good history lesson and that in and of itself makes reading it worthwhile.

Until next time!


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Big, Fat, Greek Scrapbook - Part 1

I visited Greece in 2008 and I'm finally getting around to scrapbooking my wonderful trip! These pages I created of Athens are my favorites:

More to come.....


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Japan Travel Scrapbook Pages

So I finally finished scrapbooking my Japan trip......from 2008. Yea, in case you hadn't noticed it is now 2013. I took that trip five years ago this month and I started this project 27 weeks ago. I know this because I posted the first two pages I made on my Instagram account and according to Instagram that was 27 weeks ago. Not quite 40 weeks, but these pages are still my babies.

Until next time!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Bucket List

A few months ago I was ecstatic when my friend Tasha at work gave me one of those adult education/lifelong learning booklets that I had asked her to save for me if she got one in the mail. Do you know which ones I'm talking about? The ones that have language classes and sewing classes and all kinds of other classes in the evenings at high schools and such. Well, I was excitedly contemplating taking a French class, or a snowshoeing class (dorky, I know, no need to point that out), or a guitar class and as I excitedly browsed through the booklet, another co-worker asked me if I was bored with my life and it caught me a little off guard. I was a little dumbfounded by the question and also intrigued as to how she came up with that conclusion. Is having the desire to learn something new that could open your mind or to try something out for the mere fact that it might be fun, so unusual that you have to assume the person is bored with his or her life? I surely hope not.

It's hard for me to imagine people not having, at the very least, a mental note of things they'd like to accomplish in their lives, wether it'd be learning a new language or having a child, traveling to some exotic country or landing a dream job, because we all have goals we set for ourselves in all aspects of our lives, some small, some big, some fun, and some more serious.

All of this made me remember the list I made years ago of all the things I wished to do, see, and learn at some point in my life so I decided to share my most up to date to-do list (in no particular order) with the world, though I am certain I will cross off some things and add more, but for now here it is:

1.  Ride on an elephant;

2.  Take flight lessons;

3.  Pay off all my debts;

4.  Go to a Bill Maher show;

5.  See the Taj Mahal;

6.  Learn to speak French;

7.  Learn to play an instrument;

8.  Go to Egypt, see some pyramids, & ride a camel; 

9.  Go on a safari in Africa;

10.  Learn to speak Italian;

11.  See Machu Pichu;

12.  Go to Easter Island;

13.  Ride in a gondola in Venice;

14.  Go skydiving; 

15.  Participate in a race;

16.  Learn to ski or snowboard (whichever is easiest);

17.  Learn to sew on a sewing machine;

18.  Write a book;

19.  Do humanitarian work abroad;

20.  Read 'War and Peace';

21.  Learn to play tennis;

22.  Get in shape and stay at a healthy weight once and for all;

23.  Go to Vienna and visit the homes of Sigmund Freud and Mozart and see 'The Kiss';

24.  Visit the Amazonian jungle;

25.  Visit Niagara Falls;

26.  Walk on the Great Wall of China;

27.  Go to Fiji;

28.  Swim in Jellyfish Lake in Palau;

29.  Go on an Alaskan cruise;

30.  Set foot on all 7 continents;

31.  Own a Jeep;

32.  Read 'Don Quijote de la Mancha';

33.  Take a road trip across the U.S.;

34.  Take a hot air balloon ride; 

35.  Visit the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacan; 

36.  Go snowshoeing;

37.  Travel throughout Spain and make my way down into Morocco;

38.  Go to Portugal;

39.  Go white water rafting;

40.  Become good at Yoga;

41.  See The Stonehenge;

42.  Own a home;

43.  Get caught up with all my scrapbooking projects;

44.  Learn American Sign Language;

45.  Visit all 50 U.S. States;

46.  Go to Mexico City and visit Frida Kahlo's house, Teotihuacan, the National Palace, the Museum of Anthropology, Chapultepec, and the Metropolitan Cathedral;

47.  Own a business;

48.  Visit all Latin American Countries;

49.  Help save the turtles (somewhere);

50.  Take surfing lessons;

51.  See a New York City Broadway Show, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Statue of Liberty up close;

52.  See the Arches National Park;

53.  Be part of a flash mob;

54.  Go paddle boarding; and

55.  See the Petra ruins.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oh For The Love Of Books!

Travel Books
I don't think I can call myself an avid reader, but I do love books and I like to collect them. I have coffee table books, historical novels, college text books, books in Spanish, travel books, classic literature books, books in English, atlas books, decorating books, books in Portuguese, dictionary books, craft books, biographical books, self-help books, and even a couple of books in Italian and French (for me to practice Italian and French when I take Italian and French). I have maybe about 200 books which is really not very many (or is it?), but I would love to keep expanding my collection. I dream of having my own personal library some day, in spite of having to lug those books from place to place every time I move, which has been a lot.
College Text Books 
I know, I know, with all the great technology out there I should be reading ebooks on some gadget, but what can I say, I love holding a book while I'm reading it. I mainly buy used books anyway which saves me money and is good for the environment. Sure, ebooks are more practical. They take no space at all (except for the gadget) because they're paperless (I guess that's good for the environment too), but there is just something about books. I like having something tangible you see. I like being able to turn the pages of a book and highlight certain things I find interesting and even write in it. While I am aware I can go to a public library and check out books, I am a person that has a hard time parting with books, particularly if they were good reads or if they made me learn something (keep in mind that I don't keep books I didn't like). Besides, books make wonderful decorative pieces. I love displaying them and admiring them too. Am I being a book loving romantic or just a hoarder?
Bedside Table
Currently I have over 30 books on one of my bedside tables and about 8 or so on the other bedside table that I have not read yet. I recently counted these and I didn't know the number was that high. This is a first time confession, even to myself. I am a little ashamed to admit that I buy books knowing that I have lots of them at home that I haven't read yet. Not for lack of desire to read them, just lack of time mostly, but if it makes you feel any better I have every intention of reading each and every one of those books. Because of this I have stopped buying new books (well new to me).....for now.
Some of my books in Spanish
How I choose a book is another story. Books are often recommended to me or I'll read some fantastic review about one in a magazine or from Oprah's book club so I decide to get it, but there is also another way.........Now I know they say one should never judge a book by its cover, but I must admit I am guilty of doing this and quite often. I love going to thrift stores and yard sales and looking at books, well not just looking at them, I like buying them too, obviously. About half the time I go book hunting I find books that have been on my reading list. The other half of the time I find books that "look" interesting. If the cover and the title appeal to me then I will take the time to read the back and then I go from there, otherwise I probably won't give it the time of day. Yes, I'm a sucker for a good cover, but ultimately I know it's what's on the inside that counts.

Do you prefer ebooks or paper books? Do you ever buy books when you still have several (or dozens) to read at home? How do you select books to read?

Until next time!

"Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around for months after you've finished it just to stay near it." -Markus Zusak

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

2013 Sundance Film Festival

The Egyptian Theater on Main Street in Park City
For those of you that don't know, the Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization that was started in 1981 in Sundance, Utah by Robert Redford. This organization supports, both creatively and financially, the theater and film works of independent artists. The Sundance Film Festival was started in 1984 and is positively the most well known part of the Sundance Institute. This film festival takes place in Utah every January for 10 days, giving artists from around the world a chance to showcase their films.

Now, to be perfectly honest, some of the films aren't, well.....that great. They are typically low budget films that push the limits of creativity, not just in the production sense, but in the stories that are being told. You might luck out and get to watch a moving documentary or a coming of age love story, or an eye opening historical foreign film, but you might also get a bizarre story without much of a plot. It could be a black and white film with low-tech special effects or something filmed with a shaky camera. Don't get me wrong, the whole experience is fun and very exciting, and if you live in Utah and haven't experienced it yet I highly recommend doing so. I've lived in Utah for 16 years and up until just a few years ago I had never been to the Sundance Film Festival myself (I can't believe it took me so long to go!).
Film Guide & Tickets
Of course you could walk around Park City (the main place of events) and hope to spot some celebrities (though I've never had such luck), but going to The Sundance Film Festival without seeing a film is like going to a restaurant without ordering anything. It takes some planning, but it's worth it. You must register a few months before the festival just to be able to purchase tickets for the films and that does not guarantee that the film or films you want to see will be available, but whatever is available grab it! Even if you get to purchase tickets to a film of your choice, the film may not be what you expected, but what movie ever is? Just remember to have an open mind and go for the experience of watching something unique and different from the mainstream cinema you are used to. Also, since the movies are not rated I do not recommend taking children to watch them, you could end up watching some porno for all you know, I'm kidding, but really, don't take your kids.

One of the best parts of experiencing a film during the Sundance Film Festival is that after the film is over the audience gets to meet the cast and crew and do a Q & A. This way you are able to find out how the film was made or what inspired the story for the film, or anything else you'd like to know. Additionally, at some film showings the members of the audience are given ballots to vote for the film for the Audience Awards given at Sundance, one of many types of awards given.
Cast & Crew of 'Escape from Tomorrow'
This year I only got to see one film called 'Escape From Tomorrow' and it was definitely not what I expected at all. It was weird, it was creepy, it was funny, it was dark, it was satirical, and it was definitely unlike anything I had ever seen before, but I enjoyed it very much and the buzz going on about this film has made the fact that I got to watch it all the more exciting. I'm not going to ramble on and critique this film or anything like that, but I did find a couple of online New York Times and CNN articles about why 'Escape From Tomorrow' has been one of the most talked about films of this year's Sundance Film Festival that I found interesting.

Now go! Experience the Sundance Film Festival (of 2014 that is) for yourself (or any other film festival for that matter)! For more info and to plan for next year's festival go to the festival's website.

Until next time!


“Storytellers broaden our minds: engage, provoke, inspire, and ultimately, connect us.” —Robert Redford, President and Founder of The Sundance Institute