Tuesday, April 8, 2014

30 Before 30 List

The master list of the 30 things I want to accomplish before I turn 30. The clock is ticking! My 30th birthday is February 8, 2015. 
  1. Make my own bread COMPLETE 
  2. Stay somewhere French-speaking for at least a month  
  3. Go to a Regency-era Ball 
  4. Get an article published in a paper magazine
  5. Go to a campout music festival COMPLETE
  6. Get my Starry Night (Van Gogh) tattoo 
  7. Make and can my own jam 
  8. Get to a happy weight 
  9. Go back to playing piano 
  10. Get my place decorated and organized, and be roommate-free once more
  11. Visit at least one country I've never been to  COMPLETE
  12. Make clothes for myself 
  13. Visit New Orleans again (maybe for Mardi Gras this time)
  14. Host a Steeped Tea party COMPLETE
  15. Eat local for a month (successfully)
  16. Celebrate  my 30th birthday with something special 
  17. Go on a zombie walk
  18. Learn to scuba dive
  19. Make my own cheese 
  20. Volunteer in Africa COMPLETE
  21. Get a novel published 
  22. Make bags for myself 
  23. Start work at a job I want 
  24. Make my own wine and/or beer
  25. Learn to play the ukulele properly
  26. Get a Master's degree - MSW convocation in June! 
  27. Get a cat
  28. Make an "epic" craft for me (e.g. chain maille, really detailed embroidery, a knit sweater, a quilt, an underwire bra)
  29. Shoot a gun COMPLETE
  30. Get into a decent relationship

Bonus Items
  • Set off floating lanterns
  • Make red beans and rice from scratch
  • Make lasagna from scratch
  • Make at least 2 things from every cookbook I own
  • Get rid of a thing a day for a month 

30 Before 30 Accomplishment: Shoot a Gun

Shoot a gun was on my 30 Before 30 list, which may seem like an odd one, because I'm not really a gun person. BUT, because of my writing (and heck, because I watch a lot of cop shows), I thought it would be a smart thing to research by actually trying. 

In February I was in Key Largo, and since Florida has very... um... "relaxed" gun control laws, I figured it would be the ideal place to give it a shot (ha!). So I headed out to a local range and tried out a 9mm. Against a zombie Nazi, of course. Didn't do too badly, either! Killed that thing even more dead. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Books in 2013

Without any further preamble, the big breakdown of books I read in 2013: 

Historical Romance - 94
Paranormal Romance - 32
Urban Fantasy - 22
Counselling Non-Fic - 7
Historical Non-Fic - 5
YA Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance - 4
YA Dystopian - 3
Travel Guides - 3
Mystery - 3
Gardening/Farming Non-Fic - 3
Memoir/Biography - 2
Classic Fiction - 1 
Other Assorted Non-Fic - 3

GRAND TOTAL: 182 + 5 novellas in assorted genres 

Phew! If you want an in-depth look at my book choosing brain, you can check out the full list on my GoodReads account that I'm really getting into: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/2709023-jessica?shelf=read-in-2013

Historical romance's landslide win is partially due to the fact that I read a crap-ton of books during my time in Africa, including pretty much all of the books on my e-reader. Which are mostly historical romances. 

But some books shone beyond the others. Here are my new-to-me delights in some of my biggest genres for 2013: 

Historical Romance

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures #1) by Jennifer Ashley - Unlike many historical romance examples of "madness", this hero really does have a reason for the title - he's pretty obviously on the autism spectrum, and shows it. Combined with a heroine who's grown up in a rough household, it makes for a quite unique combination and a good read. 

*Honourable Mention* One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (Rules of Scoundrels #2) by Sarah MacLean - Ms. MacLean was my first foray into historical romance, so holds a spot in my heart. This series is about the not-at-all-proper owners of The Fallen Angel gambling hell, and this book in particular had my interest with its science-loving, emotion-avoiding heroine. (But gosh, what's with the semi-silly titles of these books? I wouldn't say they are super light HRs!) 

Paranormal Romance

The Lords of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter - Oh, it's been out for years. But how can I avoid mentioning this new-to-me series about a bunch of immortal warriors housing the demons of Pandora's Box, living in a big house together? Like supernatural Big Brother or something. Not that I watch Big Brother, but still. I challenge you not to find a favourite. Mine are Gideon, the Keeper of Lies (who finds him match in book #6, The Darkest Lie), and Torin, Keeper of Disease (who has yet to have his book). 

*Honourable Mention* MacRieve (Immortals After Dark #13) by Kresley Cole - This series charges forward and never gets stale. It's my favourite, and would dominate my lists forever if I let it. This one with one of the Scottish werewolves is no exception, and I read it in one sitting. Oops. Now I have to wait another year or so. 

Urban Fantasy

The Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn - Another series that's been out forever, but I hadn't read it because, um, the first book wasn't available at my library to test out. Lame of me. But now at least I have the delight of finding these now! A relatable, not-very-motivated (to start) female werewolf ends up running a talk radio show about the supernatural. Interesting premise, good follow through. 

*Honourable Mention* My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland - A, well, white trash young woman gets turned into a zombie. Smart and quippy voice, neat story, some unique elements. Good read! 

Young Adult

Poison Princess (Arcana Chronicles #1) by Kresley Cole - Kresley Cole again, because she's fab. The world ends! It's set in Louisiana! There's a nice Cajun boy! It gets all post-apocalyptic! And it's all based on the Major Arcana of the Tarot. Excellent. I still have yet to read #2 which recently came out, but it will be SOON.  


The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine - I'm a self help book hater, but I picked this up because it sounded like me. I read it with delight, because it totally is me. I didn't realize that being so scattered with interests was such a "thing", and I hope this will help me in putting things together in my life. Perhaps! 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Changes for 2014, and More '30 Before 30' Items

Something's up at my blog. Can you see it?

It's. . . oh gosh, I'm dismantling almost everything. But it's all because something super fab is on the horizon! 

This blog, though. We've been together for a long time. I'm not ready to part ways yet. So it's sticking around, in the format of a personal challenge blog. My 30 Before 30 is the big goal list right now. Only a year and a month until my time runs out! And there are always other things that come up. My posts which still remain are challenges, books, and a few links or lists that seem to be especially enjoyed.

30 Before 30 Accomplishments

I killed two birds with one stone, but it was a really big stone (a boulder?). 

11. Visit at least one country I've never been to
20. Volunteer in Africa

Both of these were accomplished with a 3-month internship in Ghana, part of Western Africa. I saw things in the country ranging from mud and thatch villages to multi-coloured ultra-modern high-rises. From rainforests to crashing ocean waves to leisurely rivers to dusty plains. Things historical, natural, cultural, and almost always colourful, and always accompanied by the really welcoming Ghanaian people. And I talked a whole lot about the experience here: http://traveljess.wordpress.com/

Now, what will my blog's future hold? Very soon, a post on 2013 reading; I can never miss that. And more 30 Before 30 items. And. . .  stay tuned for the new project!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Travel Jess Rises from the Ashes

I'm spending October-December 2013 in the rural Volta region of Ghana doing a placement for my Master's in Social Work. Because of this, posts here will be few and far between (if at all).

However, I am keeping up a travel blog! Come visit me at my revitalized Travel Jess blog, at http://traveljess.wordpress.com

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Books in 2012

I can't believe it's already 2013, but that means it's time for my annual book round-up!

Not including graphic novels (3) or novellas (2), here are my total number of books read, by genre:

53 historical romance
20 paranormal or post-apocalyptic romance
9 urban fantasy
4 YA urban fantasy or apocalyptic
1 mystery
1 fantasy
= 88 novels 

3 reading/writing/words non-fic
2 foodie non-fic
2 international/political non-fic 
4 other non-fic (shop-owning, cults, introversion, TV tie-in) 
= 11 books

GRAND TOTAL = 99 books. This was a real year of historical romance, apparently. Over half the books in that category! And compared to last year's number (143), it's a clear drop. Not so surprising though, since I started my Master's program in September. With full-time school in 2013, I wonder if I'll see an even greater drop. Hm. . . .

A few RECOMMENDATIONS and "UN-PUT-DOWNABLES" from my 2012 Reads
(in no particular order) 

- The Lords of Deliverance Series by Larissa Ione - Four books so far in this paranormal romance series about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Lots of damage that needs to be healed in heroes and heroines, lots of tension of all sorts, and such a neat supernatural world. Also cameos from characters in her other series! 

The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities by Peter Ladner - I read it for a paper on bringing the urban to the rural, but it made me entirely excited. This is what we should be doing to become empowered, and take charge of our own food! Things like: community gardens, farmers markets, fresh food initiatives at schools, farm shares. . .  

- Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage by Kieran Kramer - This is #2 in her "Impossible Bachelors" series of historical romances, though I totally adored this one. It's about a woman trying to run a bookstore and at the same time develop her neighbourhood, when a pesky naval captain just returned from years of service decides to open up his own home to "relaxation". Light-hearted, yes, but the characters were so delightful! 

- Damned Nations: Greed, Guns, Armies, & Aid by Samantha Nutt - What a "wow" book. Written by one of the founders of War Child, it's about her own experiences in developing countries (mostly African), as well as an overview of how aid, and more, can damage. Definitely a personal opinion sort of book, but I really respected the cynical-but-hopeful sort of attitude she gives. Recommended to anyone considering doing international volunteering/aid work. 

- The Wallflowers series by Lisa Kleypas - A Regency romance series that is likely familiar to many Regency readers (but hey, it was the first time I've read them!). So pleasing with the four very different wallflowers who decide to take action and get something better. It doesn't always turn out the way they want, but the tension and romances are great in these. 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain - Such an interesting non-fic, and so necessary. There are a lot of things I "prefer" that I thought were a bit outside of the norm - turns out that no, I'm just an introvert, like PLENTY of other people. Good smatterings of science and personal stories combined make this a really enjoyable read as well. 

- The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig - This is an interesting mashup of Regency-era spies (not usually my thing) with romance and a modern-day chick-litty heroine doing research on them (REALLY not usually) my thing). And it ends up really working, even for me! I like the modern heroine because of her drive to research (and can sympathize with her grad student life), and the historical romance/spy pieces are well-researched, well-written, and with often quirky, different sorts of characters. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

30 Before 30 Accomplishment #3: Host a Steeped Tea Party

I'm a heavy-duty tea drinker, and ever since my sister started working in the head office of Steeped Tea, I've dreamt of having a tea party of my own. Steeped is a home party business here in Canada that's all about loose-leaf tea, tea products, and other goodies. When I added "Host a Steeped Tea Party" to my 30 Before 30 list, I was thinking of doing just that. But then, I decided to take it a bit further. . .

And I'm becoming a Steeped Tea consultant myself! I had my "starter party" a couple weeks ago with the help of a more established consultant, and soon enough I'll be helping hosts with their own parties. I'm excited to share my love of tea with the world.

Some of the sample items shown at the party.

Mismatched teacup delight!

Item #14 on my 30 Before 30 list, Host a Steeped Tea Party, is more than complete.

30 Before 30 Progress: 3 items down, 27 remaining