Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Best of 2014: Written

I'll most likely be absent from this blog until after the New Year as I celebrate the holidays (except for the second Semi-Charmed Winter 2014 Book Challenge check-in on January 1 of course; I promise I won't be late this time!), but I wanted to publish one last post of 2014 to share some of my favorites from the year. These are not necessarily the most popular posts of the year (I'll share those in my annual By the Numbers recap), but instead these are the posts I personally enjoyed writing the most. I hope you enjoy reading them as well!

Friday, December 19, 2014

5 Must-Have iPhone Apps

Just one day before leaving on my honeymoon, I upgraded to an iPhone 5S. Woohoo! My previous phone was an iPhone 4, and though it worked fine (if fine = randomly shutting off, the battery icon being stuck at 19 percent, and all the apps wonking out because of the iPhone 6 updates), I was excited to finally get a phone with a nicer camera (8 megapixels vs. 5, if you were wondering) right before my big trip. Anyway, the point is: obviously I had to download some apps the minute I walked out of the store. I have been making a conscious effort not to clog up my phone with unnecessary apps to help preserve its efficiency, but here are five apps I would rather not live without. (And the best part is: They're all free! I don't pay for apps. Pssh....)

Instagram | Duh. I am addicted to Instagram, as my almost-daily posts probably illustrate. And the only reason I don't post more is because I don't want to scare away potential followers (and because I like to think I hold my Instagram photos to a pretty high standard). If you like photos of beautiful books, cozy coffee cups and pretty places, you should definitely follow me! :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Only Wedding Checklist You'll Ever Need

I'm planning a short series of posts with helpful tips I learned while planning my own wedding over the past year, but before I begin posting any monthly checklists or what to look for in a wedding dress or how to narrow down your guest list, I thought it was important to start with the only things you really need to know before you get married:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Best of 2014: Read

I'm a little nervous to post my top 10 books of the year today because I just picked up Leaving Time from the library yesterday, and we all know how much I love Jodi Picoult. But, The Broke and the Bookish is hosting a Top Ten Tuesday about the best books we read in 2014, and I just had to join in on the fun! So, pending any amazing books I may read in the next two weeks, here are my ten favorite books I read this year (all title links go to my Goodreads review):

My Name is Memory, Ann Brashares | This is my go-to book when people ask me for recommendations now. A must-read for anyone who enjoys time travel books and/or is looking for a good love story.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Weekly Wishes: End-of-Year Edition

What better time than the end of the year to set some organization goals for myself, amiright? Why wait until January when I have 23 days of this month left at my disposal?! That being said, here are five things I hope to accomplish this week. (Because after this week, I'll be visiting San Diego and then my brother will be visiting and then it will be Christmas and then it will be New Year's and then my family will be visiting for a belated Christmas ... sheesh! Basically, I need to get shiz done this week or it's not happening at all haha.)

1. Address, stamp and send all holiday cards and wedding thank you notes! We're sending them together in one envelope to save on postage, but I'm still sending separate cards for each occasion because I just love writing cards. :)

Friday, December 5, 2014

5 Fun Things We Did on our Honeymoon

My spanking-new husband and I just returned from our honeymoon on Monday evening, and though I definitely plan to share more photos and stories in upcoming posts, I wanted to give you a little sneak peek to enjoy this weekend. :) We decided to visit Asia for the first time for our honeymoon and split our time between Cambodia (Siem Reap) and Thailand (Chiang Mai, Railay Beach and briefly Bangkok). Here are five fun things we did during our adventure:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Best of November: A Month in Review

Woo November! Last month marked my first trip to Asia ... for my honeymoon! Expect lots of travel recaps over the next few weeks (or months, knowing me haha). We spent a little more than a week in Thailand and Cambodia to celebrate; let me know if you have any specific questions about traveling in Southeast Asia that you would like me to address in my travel posts!

Most Popular on Instagram & Notable Events

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It looks like my Instagram followers also preferred Cambodia to Thailand; the two pictures on the right are from our time exploring temples and relaxing at our hotel (which is how we spent almost all our time in Siem Reap). November also marked another important travel "first" for me: I finally rode a cable car in San Francisco (pictured at lower left)! I know, I know; I've lived within driving distance of the city for nearly 12 years and had never done this before. It's a shame how much we take for granted the things we have nearby (which reminds me—I really need to write a Bay Area bucket list! This strategy helped me get a lot of cool stuff done when I was living in Santa Fe.) And, of course, as I mentioned last month, I think any wedding pictures are automatically going to skyrocket to the top of my "like" spectrum from now on. ;) Personally, though, I think this Instagram photo should have been the most popular last month. Seriously; how gorgeous is that?! (#unhumblebrag)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Winter 2014 Book Challenge: Month 1

Hello, readers! First, I sincerely apologize for the delayed posting of the first check-in. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may already know I was on my honeymoon until last night (err, early this morning), and thus I wasn't able to get the post ready for December 1. If you didn't know that, hopefully you weren't waiting too impatiently for the check-in! ;)

If you're new to the challenge, feel free to review the rules for the winter challenge here. Remember, all books you've read back to November 1 count, even if you join the challenge today! Continue reading after the jump to learn how to check in with your progress.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Do you have five minutes?

Then pretty please, take my reader survey! :) It's super short (only 11 questions, and most are multiple choice or yes/no; all questions optional) and will help me improve Semi-Charmed Kind of Life even more in 2015! I've embedded the survey here to make it easy peasy for you to participate. All feedback is appreciated! :)

Powered by Typeform

The survey will be open until the end of the month, so if you don't have five minutes today, please come back again in the next 31 days and share your thoughts!

If you are a blogger, have you ever done a reader survey? What was most (and least) helpful about the results?

P.S. — It has come to my attention that several people were unable to take the survey because the formatting was wonky. I sincerely apologize! This appears to be a browser issue (i.e. it looks fine in Firefox, but is tiny and impossible to take in Safari). If the survey box above is not working for you, please feel free to visit the survey at this link. I really appreciate all your feedback!

Friday, November 21, 2014

5 Podcasts for Any Personality

Earlier this year, I mentioned I had started listening to podcasts at the gym while I was training for my triathlon. Then, in the past week, six different people recommended a new podcast to me; I started listening to it this week and am already hooked. So for today's "5 Things" list, I thought I would round up five of my favorite podcasts! They are each pretty different, so you should be able to find at least one that interests you. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Best of October: A Month in Review

I was going to wait until next month and wrap October and November up together, but with me getting married and all in October, I thought it deserved its own post. ;)

Most Popular on Instagram & Notable Events

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I have a new foolproof way to get more than 100 likes on an Instagram picture! It used to be simply "include Jonathan in the photo," but now I think "include wedding dress" would work as well. ;) I've calmed down on posting wedding photos a bit recently, but that's just because I'm waiting for our professional photos to come back. Be sure to follow me on Instagram at @mcstroup if you want to see those babies when they're available! (I'm also known to post photos of books, coffee cups, and vacation destinations near and far.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

5 Best (Complete) Television Series on Netflix

I used to watch a lot of Netflix. (And let's face it—the only reason I don't watch as much now is because I actually have cable and can DVR current shows.) Today, I bring you the top five complete television series available on Netflix for your viewing pleasure!

(Note: This does not include shows that are still on air, such as Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, Parenthood, or several other fabulous shows you can find on Netflix. Heck, I guess I'll have to do a separate post about those next week!)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Best of Summer: Four Months in Review

Wow, has it really been five months since I posted a monthly review? Although, to be fair, I've posted less than 15 times total since then, so I guess there hasn't been much to review on the blog. ;) As far as life goes, though, oh boy! Lots has been happening around my real life lately, as you may already know. Currently, that includes lots of homework, writing wedding thank you notes, and taking care of some last-minute preparations for our honeymoon next week (eek!). I know I have a lot of wedding sharing to do here, and after I get back from our honeymoon, I know I'm going to want to post a million pictures, so I thought I should catch up on the summer (June through September) quickly before moving on to the very exciting months of October and November. Without further ado ... this summer in review!

Most Popular on Instagram & Notable Events

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Considering my obsession with Instagram, there was no way I could boil four months of photos down into just four picks! :) So today, you get to see the nine most popular photos from my summer feed! (To be fair, this photo was tied for 9th place, but the triathlon bib got more comments.) As you can see, my summer mostly consisted of wedding planning (including my bachelorette party in Vegas—woohoo!) and drinking coffee, but I managed to throw a triathlon in there, as well, and a trip to Seattle for my grad school orientation. By the way, I noticed that once again any photos with my fiance husband in them automatically get more likes. ;)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Winter 2014 Book Challenge: The Preliminary List

Happy Wednesday, everyone! The Semi-Charmed Winter 2014 Book Challenge starts next weekend, and this link-up will be open until then to share (and get!) some ideas of what to read for this challenge. The preliminary link-up is not mandatory to join the challenge, but it is usually quite fun to participate. :) Also, be sure to check out the challenge post one more time before you choose your books, as I've clarified some categories per reader requests. Check out my list after the jump, and I look forward to seeing what you plan to read!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Semi-Charmed Winter 2014 Book Challenge

It's time for the next installment of the Semi-Charmed Book Challenge series! Because we had so many people finish the summer challenge this year (y'all are awesome!), this challenge will be known as the "Reader's Choice Challenge" (because all the categories came from your fabulous brains and not mine!). Thanks to everyone who suggested a category. :) And now for the rules and categories....

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Perfect Bridal Shower Gift: A Creative Wine Basket!

Is it just me, or is everyone getting married?? If anyone else is experiencing this same phenomenon and needs an awesome gift to take to the next bridal shower, I have the perfect solution for you! A bride-to-be wine basket.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Recipe: The Easiest Breakfast Sandwich Ever

I love breakfast. Seriously. I have all these posts in mind where all I do is talk about my favorite breakfast foods, namely, eggs. But what about when I really want to eat eggs, but I don't want to go through the trouble of heating a pan and cooking eggs and washing the pan later (i.e. almost every morning)? That's when this little recipe comes in handy:

This sandwich takes fewer than 5 minutes to make and only gets two dishes dirty (only one dish if you want to wrap the sandwich in a paper towel to go!).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Best of: #bookphotoaday

Thank you to everyone who participated in my little #bookphotoaday challenge last week! I've collected a few of my favorites to showcase here on the blog:

Clockwise from top left: @dairecharlotte, @hello_mimi, @dairecharlotte & @writerjmriley

And, of course, a quick recap of my "bookish" photos from last week (including two libraries and only one book). Unfortunately, my phone camera hasn't been working since it took a trip in the river during my triathlon in July (more on that in another post!), so my Instagram presence has been sorely lacking lately. Sigh.... Just counting down the days until November 18 when I can upgrade my phone to one with a working camera!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Top 10 Books on my Fall TBR List

Are you looking for a good read to curl up with this fall as the nights get cooler and the drinks get yummier? Look no further! I've compiled a list of ten books I hope to read this fall, along with reasons you might want to read them, too. I acknowledge ten might be a little ambitious, considering I don't read ten books per season now and I'm starting grad school today (!!!), but if I did read ten books from now until December, these wouldn't be bad picks. :)

Something to celebrate your freedom to read. Between Banned Books Week and the start of the school year, September is the perfect time to pick up that challenged book you've been wondering about for years. Currently, the top of my list includes Their Eyes Were Watching God, Lolita, Catch-22 and A Clockwork Orange.  (Psst .... you should also join my #bookphotoaday challenge if you haven't already!)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekly Wishes: Back-to-Blogging Edition

photo & design by Megan

As I am sure most of you have also discovered, sharing personal goals in a public forum helps keep us accountable and motivates us to complete our goals on-time. Therefore, what better way is there to celebrate my return to (regular) blogging than by participating in Melyssa's Weekly Wishes link-up? I'll keep it short and sweet this week (I don't want to overcommit myself too early and get frustrated), but I do plan to check back in at least monthly and continuing setting new goals for myself and Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. Here is what I want to focus on for this week (and the rest of September):

  1. Draft an editorial calendar. I don't plan on posting more than 3-4 times a week, but even so I think it will be very helpful to plan out my posts so I have a good balance of content (link-ups vs. original topics, books vs. travel, photo-heavy vs. text-heavy, etc.).
  2. Organize my Bloglovin' feed. One of my favorite parts of blogging is reading all your blogs. That being said, I have gotten dreadfully behind on my feed. It's time to rearrange my folders, remove those blogs that are no longer active and maybe even add some new reads if I'm feeling adventurous. :)
  3. Develop a social media strategy for my Facebook page. My Facebook page for Semi-Charmed Kind of Life is grossly underutilized. Sometimes I consider deleting it altogether because I think it's worse to have an inactive social media account than not have one at all. Do any of you with Facebook pages have any "best practices" you could share with me??
Of course there are plenty more projects/improvements I want to work on, but this seems like a good start for this week. What goals are you currently working on?

P.S. — If you're stopping by from the link-up, be sure to check out my photo challenge to celebrate Banned Books Week, going on now!

Linking up with Melyssa for Weekly Wishes.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Banned Books Week 2014: A Semi-Charmed Photo Challenge

Good evening, friends! I write to you tonight from Seattle, Washington, where I am spending the next few days attending orientation for my Master of Library and Information Science program. Woohoo! During our introductory lecture today, our program chair had a few great quotes that I had to write down, including:

"We're all better off when people can read and think freely."

Well said. Naturally, this got me thinking about Banned Books Week, which I then looked up and realized is next week! Last year, I hosted a photo challenge for Banned Books Week, which I found to be quite entertaining and received some positive feedback on. Therefore, I am turning this into an annual challenge!

Instead of providing specific prompts for each day this year, I decided to leave it open to all of you to post any bookish photos you wish throughout Banned Books Week (September 21 - 27). Please tag your photos with #bookphotoaday, and I will curate my favorite posts each day and feature them on my personal Instagram at @mcstroup and also here on the blog!

Please feel free to share the above graphic on your own social media and/or blog to encourage others to join the challenge! I hope to see your bookish posts on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr next week. :)

Linking up with Nicole for Treat Yo' Self Thursday.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Change is here!

Well, now seems as good a time as any to post my big news, considering I just got home from my last day at my current job. Woohoo!! As of next week, I will be working part-time as a library aide, and (hopefully) part-time as a lifestyle blogger. ;) Y'all are some smart people; most of you guessed that a new job was one of my big announcements!

As for the other announcement, it goes hand in hand with the new job....

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Summer 2014 Book Challenge: Final Scoreboard!

button design by Kelsey

Oh my gosh. First, let me just say that I love each and every one of you! My heart was so happy reading all your comments on the final check-in (and the check-ins leading up to that). I love hearing that my little challenges have inspired some of you to renew your love in reading after a dry spell, or even just point you in a new direction. Thank you so much for playing along and making these challenges fun! Can you believe there were 19 finishers this summer?! Looks like I need to make the next challenge a little more challenging. ;)

But really, speaking of the next challenge, I have it scheduled for November 1 to February 28. And, with so many finishers this time, I'll be able to do something I've never done before: A completely reader-created book challenge! If you finished the challenge, please send me your category idea for the winter challenge before October 10 so I can post the preliminary list on October 15 and give everyone enough time to plan out their challenge books and get any "non-challenge" books out of the way before November 1. :) You can comment on this post or email me at semicharmedkol[at]gmail[dot]com. Keep reading after the jump to see who finished and/or check where you ended up!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Change on the horizon ...

This picture doesn't have anything to do with this post; I just like it. :)

I have big news! But, like any good blogger, I can't just come out and say it. I have to keep you coming back for more. :) Plus, I thought it would be fun to hear what you think my big news is.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer 2014 Book Challenge: Month 4

button design by Kelsey

After four months of reading, the Semi-Charmed Summer 2014 Book Challenge is over! Remember the challenge ended at midnight, so please only count books that were finished before then. With 12 finishers so far, I think this is the most successful challenge yet! Or perhaps it was the least successful, as I obviously didn't make it hard enough. ;) Continue reading after the jump for the current scoreboard:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Summer 2014 Book Challenge: Month 3

button design by Kelsey

The Semi-Charmed Summer 2014 Book Challenge is almost over! Just one more month to get all those categories checked off your list. :) Congratulations to everyone who has finished so far! And even if you haven't finished/won't finish, I hope this challenge has at least introduced you to some new great books you wouldn't have tried before! Here's the scoreboard as of last month's check-in:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Funny: Word Crimes

Blogging makes me happy. (Surprise!) Seeing that the only post I've managed to publish in the past 30 days was for my book challenge makes me not so happy. (Not that I don't love my book challenge, but there is so much more I want to share with y'all!)

I have lots of ideas for posts I want to write soon, but while I ease back into the blogging groove, I'll admit I'm copping out today: I'm just sharing a hilarious video. I don't share videos often, so if I do you know it's going to be good. (Like this one.) Fellow grammar nerds enjoy:

So tell me: What's the funniest video you've seen lately?

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer 2014 Book Challenge: Month 2

button design by Kelsey

Welcome to the second Semi-Charmed Summer 2014 Book Challenge check in! We're halfway through the challenge already; do you think you'll finish?? Here's the full scoreboard after the first check-in last month (including one winner already! Heather is so sneaky....):

Friday, June 20, 2014

New Book on the Shelf! (Summer Book Swap)

Hosting reading challenges attracts a lot of book-loving bloggers to my little corner of the Internet. One of these bloggers is Carly from Carly Blogs Here, and when I heard she was co-hosting a summer book swap with Tiffany, Emily and Lauren, I knew I had to participate. What's better than getting a book in the mail?? (Getting a book paw-delivered to you by a corgi, of course. Sorry, I've just been on a huge corgi kick lately....)

Anyway, I was so excited to be paired with Sara from Life & Leopard—she's a fellow Literary Junkie, so it was fun to have a familiar name to swap with. And when she emailed me her favorite authors, I just knew I'd found my reading soulmate. So of course I was confident I would receive an awesome book from her, but I didn't expect her to know me quite so well.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Words of Wisdom from Norton Juster

I reread The Phantom Tollbooth earlier this month, and if you know anything about my reading habits, you may know I don't reread books often. This was one novel that had been on my mind for a while—actually, I even mentioned wanting to reread it someday in the post I just linked to—and it just so happened that reading a children's book was one of the categories in this summer's book challenge! (Okay, so that category might have been totally planned to encourage me to reread The Phantom Tollbooth. I guess that's one of the perks of being the challenge host!)

Anyway, the point of all this rambling is that this book is absolutely fantabulous. I couldn't stop telling people about how great it was when I was reading it. If you haven't read this book in the past five years, read it again. It's a quick read and definitely worth your time to remind yourself of some very important life lessons! Including ...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Best of April & May: Two Months in Review

Once again, I completely missed a monthly check-in, so I'm going to fill you in on two months of happenings in my life and on my blog today. I have to say, it was kind of weird thinking back to April and what I did that month. I fluctuated between "That was really two months ago? It feels like yesterday!" and "Oh my goodness, that was only two months ago? I barely remember that." Is anyone else feeling like 2014 shouldn't be almost halfway over already???

Most Popular on Instagram & Notable Events

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So basically, y'all are telling me the only thing you like better than photos of books are photos of my fiance? I can't say I blame you. ;) But really, April and May were relatively tame compared to some of our busier months this year. We celebrated our one-year engagement anniversary on May 18 by registering for wedding gifts, treating ourselves to In-N-Out and opening a bottle of wine my sister and her boyfriend got us from the vineyard where we got engaged. I also started my third annual summer reading challenge (it's not too late to join!) and have been reading some great books (details below).

June is shaping up to be another crazy month; we had family visiting this weekend and we'll be out of town the next three weekends, but we were able to take some time this afternoon to nap and for me to catch up on some blog reading. Oh—and did I mention we're training for a triathlon? We're on week five of the training plan now to plan for the big race on July 19! (That reminds me: I guess we'll also be out of town at least the first three weekends of July as well! Yikes!) Looks like my next two monthly recaps will be chock-full of fun stuff. :) For now, continue reading after the jump to see what you (and I!) liked the past two months.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Summer 2014 Book Challenge: Month 1

button design by Kelsey

Welcome back, semi-charmed readers! If you've joined the summer 2014 book challenge, today is your first chance to check in and tell me what you've read so far. If you haven't joined yet but are intrigued by the idea of joining a fantabulously fun reading challenge with some awesome bloggers and blog-reading individuals, there's still time! Simply click here to read the rules and categories, and feel free to look back to May 1 and count any qualifying books you've read since then. Continue reading after the jump to learn how to check in with your progress.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

5 Travel-Inspired Prints Under $80

As you may have seen on Instagram, this past Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of my engagement. My fiance and I spent the day registering for gifts at Bed Bath & Beyond, and I don't mean to complain, but it was exhausting. Luckily, we agreed on almost everything, but it was still difficult to think of what we really need to upgrade and how much of each item (e.g. dishes) would be reasonable. I also struggled with what was appropriate to put on a gift registry. Is our registry supposed to be strictly functional household items, or can I include a huge framed poster of Yosemite National Park? Your input would be appreciated!

Anyway, the point of all this is that for today's Travel Tuesday link-up, I thought I would share some of the gorgeous prints I found during our trek through our local Bed Bath & Beyond store. And after you tell me just how perfectly acceptable it is to add such items to my registry, I might choose a few. :)

Prague, $24.99 | compass, $79.99 | Grand Teton, $59.99 | Budapest, $24.99 | elephants, $19.99 each

Link up with your travel-related posts below! Feel free to grab the button, too.

Also linking up with Nicole for Treat Yo Self Thursday.

Literary Junkies: May 2014

It's time to join Taylor, Christine and me (as this month's co-host!) for the May edition of the Literary Junkies book club link-up! And if you've read Where'd You Go, Bernadette, be sure to join us at 7 p.m. CST tonight for our monthly book chat on Twitter. Or join our Facebook group. Or our Goodreads group. Or all of the above. :) Anywho, time to move on with this month's questions!

As always, Literary Junkies is hosted by 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

50 Books From 50 States: Reading Challenge!

Remember when I said I wasn't participating in any reading challenges this year? Except my own challenges? Of course, that means the Semi-Charmed Summer Book Challenge alone is not enough for me anymore. Kelsey from Keeping up with Kelsey contacted me about co-hosting a fun geographically based challenge with her, so how could I say no?? Hence, the 50 Books from 50 States Challenge is born.


I actually started a "Where You've Been Reading" challenge a few years ago, but I knew I would never be able to read 50 books to fit the challenge in one year. Thankfully, Kelsey agrees, so this will be more of a long-term challenge. And, to help you out a little more, you are more than welcome to count any books you've read since 2012 until now for this challenge. (It's harder than it sounds to read 50 books from 50 different states!) And, of course, double-dipping is always welcome! So feel free to count any books you're already reading/have read for other challenges.

Here's a little map showing the books I have read since 2012 or plan to read for this challenge. Feel free to look at specific states for ideas if you need any, and let me know if you have any good ideas for states that I don't have a book assigned to yet (the red states)!

View Where are you reading? in a larger map

Sound fun? Of course it does, and we'd love to have you! Continue reading below for the nitty-gritty of the challenge.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The best type of souvenir.

Welcome to Travel Tuesday, a weekly opportunity to share your travel-related blog posts! Last week, I asked about your favorite type of souvenirs when traveling. Anyone want to guess mine?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Go Green! (Mental Health Awareness Swap Reveal)

A few weeks ago, I found a green-themed accessories swap opportunity on A Cute Angle. As if I wasn't already sold on the idea of getting a fun new green accessory, I then discovered Ashley was hosting the swap in honor of National Mental Health Awareness Month (May). I was partnered with the fabulous Maddie over at The Whimsy One. It was so fun learning about Maddie through her blog (right off the bat, I discovered we are both huge bookworms) and shopping for some green goodies to send her way. As with any swap, though, the best part was opening my package and seeing what Maddie had picked for me!

Maddie said she wanted me to "pamper myself" with this package, and I will definitely take her up on that invitation! Plus, I love fuzzy socks. I wear them around my apartment all the time when we're too cheap to turn the heat on. ;) And I painted my toenails within about five minutes of opening my package and seeing that glorious mint polish:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Alcatraz Island: San Francisco, California

Welcome to Travel Tuesday, a weekly link-up for all things travel-related! Last week, Carly posted about her visit to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, which inspired me to dig through some old photos and share my experience, as well. Warning: This trip was taken during my pre-blogger life, when I didn't understand the importance of taking 27 photos of one detail in order to find the perfect shot, so pickings were slim!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Blogger Revealed: All Things Considered

For my birthday earlier this year, I invited all my readers to ask me anything about my blog and/or life. I got a lot of questions about Semi-Charmed Kind of Life's two most popular topics (books and travel), so I answered those questions in their own post already. Today, I'll be sharing my answers for all your other random yet awesome questions! Here goes....

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Freedom Trail: Boston, Massachusetts

Welcome back to Travel Tuesday, a weekly link-up to share your travel experiences, stories and tips! Today I'm sharing some photos from my visit to Boston a year ago around this time. I visited Boston University as a traveling consultant for my sorority, and during one of my free afternoons I hopped the T to walk The Freedom Trail.

The Freedom Trail - Boston, Massachusetts, on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life

My favorite part of the tour was the guide. They really get into character. In fact, our tour guide told us he is not allowed to wear sunglasses or carry a water bottle because Bostonians didn't have those luxuries in the 18th century. He did have a nifty little canteen to quench his thirst, however. And, of course, he was very knowledgeable about all things Boston and the American Revolution in general.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Summer 2014 Book Challenge: The Preliminary List

Next week marks the beginning of the Semi-Charmed Summer 2014 Book Challenge! This link-up will stay open until the challenge starts on May 1 so everyone can share what they're planning to read. This link-up is not mandatory to join the challenge, and you're not obligated to read the books on your preliminary list; it's just a fun way to see what other people are planning to read and get some ideas for categories you're struggling with! And I wanted to share this awesome new button that the fabulous Kelsey created for this challenge! (Thanks, Kelsey!) Feel free to grab the html code at the bottom of this post to add the button to your own site.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blogger Revealed: Books & Travel Edition

Last month, I opened up my blog (and my life!) to my readers and asked y'all to ask me all your burning questions. This month, I'm going to answer those inquiries! I got quite a few questions about traveling and reading (surprise!), so this first installment will focus on those questions only. All the other fun but more random questions will be answered in a future post. :)

Fran: Where's a place you would love to travel to but haven't yet?
Where's a place I haven't traveled to that I wouldn't want to see?? But really, I finally got to visit Spain last summer, so I think the next must-see destination on my list is Ireland. Or Istanbul. And the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, of course.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Where in the world? {reveal}

image via @mcstroup on Instagram

Welcome back to Travel Tuesday, a weekly link-up to share all your travel posts! No rules: Just share any post from your blog relating to travel. Last week, I posted ten photos from ten different European countries and asked you to guess the city. If you didn't get a chance to play last week, check the photos out here first! Then read on after the jump to see how well you did. :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Where in the world?

Greetings, fellow travelers and wanderlusters! Welcome back to Travel Tuesday, a weekly link-up to share all your travel shenanigans and expert tips. Before we begin, I just wanted to note that I revealed a very special project earlier this morning on the blog. If you like to read, you'll definitely want to check it out. :) And enough with the shameless self-promotion! Today, I'm trying something a little different for Travel Tuesday: a game!

I've selected 10 photos from my travels, and I thought it might be fun to have you guess where each photo was taken! I'm looking for the city names, but if you also know the specific landmark (if there is one pictured), more props to you! Hint: Each photo is from a different European country. If you need more help, I've listed 15 possible countries at the bottom of this post to choose from (not all countries are pictured). Let's see how this goes! :)


Semi-Charmed Summer 2014 Book Challenge

Design via Kelsey

I cannot believe it's already April 15! I almost forgot to post the challenge list today—whoops! Luckily I had quite a few excited participants remind me it was time to get going. :) So, without further ado, let's get started! Please continue reading after the jump for the challenge rules and categories.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Top Travel Blogs

Welcome back to Travel Tuesday, a weekly travel link-up for you to share any and all travel stories, tips and/or tricks! Today I'm sharing a handful of my favorite travel blogs to read. If you want to share your favorite travel blogs as well, be my guest, but don't feel obligated to write about the suggested topic.

Exceptional (Former) Expat Blogs

As I was listing my two selections for this category, I realized they aren't actually expats anymore! Melyssa and Chelsea* were both expats when I first started reading their posts last year, but they've each moved back to the States in recent months. (That doesn't mean they don't still have great travel content, though!)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Best of March: A Month in Review

March is a pretty cool month. St. Patrick's Day, the first day of spring, my birthday ... what's not to like? ;) Here's a quick recap of what you liked this past month on the blog and my social media, as well as a little insight into what I've been up to away from my computer:

Most Popular on Instagram & Notable Events

1 // 2 // 3 // 4

As I mentioned last month, I knew March would be busy for Jonathan and me. We started off the month with a trip to Hearst Castle with my family, drove down Highway 1 to visit the coast again the next weekend with his family, ran a 10k and traveled to St. Louis for a dear friend's wedding (hence the fancy photos in the Instagram collage above). It was a whirlwind month, but we made some great memories along the way!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Map Envy

Welcome back to Travel Tuesday! No rules: Just a place to share travel posts with other like-minded bloggers every Tuesday. We haven't had a suggested topic for a while, so next week, I'm going to spotlight some of my favorite travel blogs, if you want to do the same. As always, though, anything travel-related goes! Today, I'm talking maps.

image via Instagram
I love maps. I do. In fact, for Christmas I got a 4' x 6' map of the world, which is now hanging on my wall in a DIY frame, lovingly adorned with gold pins (see above). If I could, I would decorate my whole apartment with maps! It's a nice reminder of where I've been and a better inspiration of where I want to go in the future. Here are five more maps I would love to add to my collection:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Currently: feeling very disappointed in Scandal

The fiance and me at a friend's wedding in St. Louis last weekend (image via Instagram)

reading | Cress, the third book in the Lunar Chronicles. As I've mentioned before, these books aren't really my style, but I think this one is shaping up to be the best of the series.

writing | addresses on about 200 save the date postcards....

listening | to the latest Criminal Minds marathon Jonathan and I have been indulging in these past few weeks.

thinking | that Scandal really sucks this season. Seriously. I think Episode 3 was the last time Olivia took a client who wasn't directly related to the presidential campaign, and I couldn't care less about her on-again, off-again relationship with Fitz. (That was also the best episode of the season thus far, in my opinion. I cried!) Looks like Scandal is turning into another Revenge for me. Sigh....

smelling | nothing. Hmm.... I hope I'm not getting sick! *worried face*

wishing | Olivia would stop worrying so much about the President and start helping more scandalous high-powered Washingtonians. Seriously. This is bumming me out.

hoping | I win the lottery soon so I can quit my job and hop on a plane around the world. That could happen, right?

wearing | flannel pajama pants and an oversized UC Berkeley T-shirt. Mmm hmm!

loving | how I spent yesterday morning: reading at a local coffeeshop with a chocolate croissant and my fiance. If only every morning could be spent that way!

wanting | something good to happen soon so I can share some big news I received recently with all of you. ;)

needing | to pick out my bridesmaids' dresses for my wedding! We're getting closer to the six-month mark every day. Eek!

feeling | disappointed in the third season of Scandal. Have I mentioned that yet?

clicking | around Instagram looking at pictures of puppies. I know—not a good idea when you live in an apartment with a strict no-pet policy! But our lease is up soon, and I really want to move to a house and get a furry friend.

How was your weekend? Any exciting plans for the upcoming week?