Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reader Survey Results & What to Expect in 2015!

photo via Death to the Stock Photo, design by Megan

First, thanks to each and every one of you who participated in my reader survey last month! I've finally gone over the results, so today I wanted to share the highlights and also how I'll be using this information to improve Semi-Charmed Kind of Life this year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Baanchang Elephant Park: Chiang Mai, Thailand

I still have plenty more pictures to share from our time in Cambodia, but this week I thought I would take a break and fast-forward to the next destination of our honeymoon: Chiang Mai, Thailand! Specifically, the Baanchang Elephant Park north of the city.

As I mentioned before, when Jonathan said he wanted to ride elephants during our honeymoon, I was concerned with the ethical issues around animal tourism. So, I Googled "ethical elephant riding in Thailand" and found several possibilities, including Baanchang Elephant Park. I then looked each of the locations up on Trip Advisor to seek corroboration of their claims of ethical treatment. Several of the parks had reviews noting visible animal cruelty or otherwise unpleasant experiences by the visitors, but Baanchang's reviews were positive overall, and many users noted the respect between the mahouts and the elephants at this park. So, Baanchang it was!

Riding elephants was part of the package, but the focus was on elephant education. We learned about the various circuses and cities the elephants had been rescued from, which unfortunately included some pretty horrific stories about the abuse the elephants had endured. :( We also spent quite a bit of time feeding the elephants, which was amazingly fun! The park buys all their produce from local villages to help support the local economy, which I thought was pretty neat.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Currently: Sunshine, margaritas and Westeros

photo via Instagram

reading | This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, by Marilyn Johnson. This is my "book from a genre I don't usually read" for my winter book challenge. Although I enjoy narrative nonfiction, I almost never read straight nonfiction, so this will be different for me. I also don't read as much narrative nonfiction as I would like; that's one of my goals for this year!

writing | a Prezi presentation, a library web page review and an essay on hate speech, all due before the end of the day tomorrow. (Yet I'm still writing this blog post ... because priorities. And procrastination.)

listening | to Birdy, Ed Sheeran and Mat Kearney nonstop on iTunes Radio.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The First Ten Things to do After Getting Engaged

Obviously, you'll want to complete this checklist before starting any items in this post (or even before getting engaged, if possible!). But after the question has been popped, there are some things you should get started on fairly early if you want to have a stress-free planning process.

I've labeled this the "9-16 Months" checklist because I read somewhere the average engagement is 16 months long, but I know not everyone has the benefit (or curse, depending on your perspective) of a long engagement. Ultimately, I think these are the 10 wedding-planning items you should do first to avoid scheduling conflicts, set clear expectations and reduce stress, regardless of the length of your engagement.

1. Figure out your budget. Everything else on this list pretty much depends on this biggie: How much money do you have for your wedding? More importantly, how much do you want to spend? Now is also the time to figure out how much money (if any) your parents or other parties are planning to contribute, so you can all have the same expectations heading into the planning process.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Week with Girl Gone International

Last week, I got a very exciting email from Bonnie Rose asking me to guest post for Girl Gone International's Instagram account. How could I say no to that?! I loved the user engagement on the account (people actually answered the questions I posed in my captions!), and I found a lot of great new wanderlust accounts to add to my personal feed. For today's Travel Tuesday post, I wanted to share with you my posts at @girlgoneinternational from the past week:

Monday, January 19, 2015

I believe ...

Welcome! I hope you are all ready to share what you believe today for this exciting one-time link-up. :) Thanks to the wonderful, hilarious Amanda of The Lady Okie for co-hosting with me today; we can't wait to read all your posts. Remember: Your post can be silly, serious or anywhere in between. The limit does not exist! Without further ado ...

I believe there should always be an answer to the question, "What are you reading?"

Friday, January 16, 2015

5 Books to Read in 2015

Last year, I was super excited to surpass my goal of reading 30 books: I read 40! This year, because of my transition from full-time to part-time work, I set a pretty lofty goal of reading 52 books. I'm also a graduate student, so I don't have unlimited time to read for pleasure, but I'm hoping my spring and summer breaks will be filled with lots of reading. :) It was pretty hard to narrow down my TBR list to only five books for this post, but here are the five books I most want to read in 2015. (Right after I finish the #SCWBC14, of course.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Never have I ever ...

When I saw one of my favorite bloggers, Amanda from The Lady Okiewas co-hosting a link-up today called "Never Have I Ever," I just knew I had to play along. How fun is that??

Sunset at Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand

>> been to South America. Or Australia. Or Antarctica.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Banteay Srei, Siem Reap, Cambodia

After exploring the temples of Angkor Thom on our first full day in Cambodia (including Bayon Temple, which I shared last week), we headed out to Banteay Srei in the afternoon. It's a bit of a drive from the city of Siem Reap, but it is definitely worth the extra time because of the intricate nature of the carvings.

Banteay Srei means "Citadel of Women," so named because the temple seems to have been built by women. This is because (1) the carvings are very intricate and detailed, which is considered to be more feminine, and (2) the temple is built to a smaller scale than most temples in Cambodia, which hints the buildings may have accommodated women better than their larger male counterparts. Here are just a few examples of the delicate carvings at Banteay Srei:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Best of December: A Month in Review

I probably should have posted this monthly recap before my annual By the Numbers post, but I was just too excited to hit "publish" on the yearly review. :) Here's what the end of 2014 looked like for me and Semi-Charmed Kind of Life:

Most Popular on Instagram & Notable Events

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Considering we received our professional wedding photos during our honeymoon, it's no surprise the three most popular posts on my Instagram in December were mostly wedding shots. :) But the fourth post is also quite exciting: I first learned about this magical bathtub tray on Nicole's blog months ago and mentioned how awesome it was. Luckily, my husband remembered and gifted me with the tray (and a bathtub pillow!) for Christmas. The other side of the tray is made for a wine glass, so you can bet I'll be getting a lot of use out of this baby this year.

In addition to celebrating Christmas with the in-laws last month, Jonathan and I also traveled down to San Diego to visit my sister and her boyfriend in the middle of the month, and we flew down to southern California again on New Year's Eve to spend that holiday with my mom, who recently moved to Pasadena after spending several years living abroad.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Last November, my husband and I honeymooned in Southeast Asia. We visited both Cambodia and Thailand, and though Thailand was the main part of our trip, I actually ended up loving Cambodia so much more. One of the first temples we visited was Bayon Temple inside the Angkor Thom complex. Whereas Angkor Wat, the largest and possibly most famous Hindu temple in the world, is one huge temple; Angkor Thom is one huge complex with multiple temples inside, including this one.

Monday, January 5, 2015

By the Numbers: 2014

Sunset at Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand

This past year was certainly not as travel-heavy as 2013, but Jonathan and I were still able to visit a few states and travel abroad once for our honeymoon. We also traveled quite a bit within the state of California throughout the year, including weekend trips to San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, and multiple trips to the Central Valley for wedding-planning shenanigans.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Winter 2014 Book Challenge: Month 2

Happy New Year and welcome to the second Semi-Charmed Winter 2014 Book Challenge 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 see the current scoreboard and learn how to check in with your progress.

More & Less in 2015 {Plus $150 in Paypal Cash!}

I've never been one for New Year's Resolutions. (Except this one, of course, but that's more of a daily resolution.) But as I look ahead to 2015, there are some things I am hoping for. In the upcoming year, I want to:

see more sunrises
spend less time watching television
spend less evenings at home and more time exploring the Bay Area
read more nonfiction
make more phone calls and send less text messages
write more cards and send less emails
spend less money on myself and more on supporting causes I admire
sweat more
floss more
drink more water
accept more and judge less
love more and argue less
practice more random acts of kindness
be more patient and more forgiving

And if one of your New Year's Resolutions is to be more fiscally responsible, maybe this giveaway can start you off on the right foot! :) Check out the other 11 lovely bloggers below and enter to win $150 using the Rafflecopter after the jump. The giveaway ends next week. Happy New Year!