Friday, December 18, 2015

PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge 2015: Finished!

photo via @megtristao

I attempted the PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge this year, and I just finished today (December 18). Woohoo! The books I read for the challenge are listed below; feel free to check out my reviews/ratings for these titles, as well as other books I've read in 2015, on Goodreads.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Winter 2015 Book Challenge: Month 1

photo via @megtristao

Hello, readers! It's been one full month since the winter 2015 book challenge began, which means it's already time to check in with your progress! If you are new to the challenge, feel free to review the general rules here and the categories below. If you aren't new, feel free to check out the categories again anyway, as I've done my best to clarify when readers have questions:

5 points: Read a book that has between 100 and 200 pages.
10 points: Read a debut book by any author. (The book does not have to be a 2015 debut.)
10 points: Read a book that does not take place in your current country of residence.
10 points: Read a book that someone else has already used for the challenge. — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Kristen @ See You in a Porridge[Edited to add: The book must be at least 200 pages long.]
15 points: Read a book published under a pseudonym (e.g. Robert Galbraith, Sara Poole, J.D. Robb, Franklin W. Dixon, Mark Twain, etc.). — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Megan M. [Edited to add: The edition you read must be attributed to the pseudonym.]
15 points: Read a book with “boy,” “girl,” “man” or “woman” in the title (or the plural of these words).
15 points: Read a book with a one-word title (e.g. AttachmentsAmericanahUgliesWild, etc.).
20 points: Read a book with a person's first and last name in the title (e.g. The Storied Life of A.J. FikryThe Story of Edgar Sawtelle).
20 points: Read a food-themed book. — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Jamie @ Whatever I Think Of!
20 points: Read a book with a verb in the title. (For any grammar nerds out there, I mean “verb” in the most general sense, so gerunds count. For non-grammar-inclined people, just use any book that appears to have a verb in the title!)
30 points: Read two books with the same title (by different authors). — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher bevchen @ Confuzzledom[Edited to add: The titles must be the SAME save for alternate spellings. For example, The Alchemist and Alchemist would be two different titles and would not work for the challenge, but The Alchemist and The Alchemyst would work.]
30 points: Read a nonfiction book and a fiction book about the same subject (e.g. a biography and historical fiction novel about the same person; two books about a specific war or event; a nonfiction book about autism and a novel with a character who has autism, etc. The possibilities are endless!). [Edited to add: This one is very broad! Just have fun with it!]

Remember, all books you have read dating back to November 1 count, even if you just joined the challenge yesterday (or today)! Continue reading after the jump to learn how to check in with your progress.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Semi-Charmed Winter 2015 Book Challenge

photo via @megtristao

It's time for the next installment of the Semi-Charmed Book Challenge series! Whether you are a newcomer to the challenge or a repeat reader, I am excited to have you here today. Continue reading after the jump for the winter challenge rules and categories.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Banned Books Week 2015: A Photo Challenge!

Banned Books Week is coming up at the end of the month, and I'm celebrating with my third annual Banned Books Week photo challenge! :)

I'm changing the hashtag to #bbwphotoaday this year (#bookphotoaday seems to have been appropriated by other forces), and I hope to see many of you join in on Instagram and Twitter! As usual, I'll be featuring my favorite photos on my Instagram account and here on the blog. Please feel free to share the above image on your blog or Instagram if you plan to play along!

What is your favorite banned book?

P.S. — If you love Instagram and books, check out these fun bookish hashtags while you wait for this photo challenge to begin!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Summer 2015 Book Challenge: Final Scoreboard

Welcome to the final scoreboard for the Semi-Charmed Summer 2015 Book Challenge! Continue reading after the jump for final scores and information on the next challenge. :)

Friday, September 4, 2015

5 Bookish Hashtags to Explore on Instagram

It's no secret that I love Instagram. Lately, I've been spending a lot of time exploring the community, and my favorite posts are definitely travel photos and bookstagrams. Today I'm sharing five hashtags that I particularly enjoy exploring on any given day. :)

photo via @megtristao

1. #currentlyreading | This was the first "bookish" hashtag I discovered on Instagram. It gets a lot of use, so there are always new photos to scroll through.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Summer 2015 Book Challenge: Month 4

The summer 2015 book challenge is now over! Thanks to everyone who participated. Be sure to check in on this post by September 7 to be included in the final scoreboard, to be posted on September 10. Continue reading after the jump for the current scoreboard and check-in instructions. Also, either my math was really off the morning I prepared this post, or there were quite a few check-in posts that didn't match up with their points and their categories. So, if I made a mistake below with your total, I'm sorry! If you think your total below is incorrect, please post your complete reading list with your final check-in and I'll be sure the final scoreboard is correct. :)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Discovering new blogs: A giveaway!

Good morning all! I hope your Saturday is filled with watching football, sipping coffee, reading, hanging out with friends, soaking up the last rays of summer, and/or whatever else makes you happy. AND, I hope this chance to win $100 makes your Saturday a little better! ;)

Allie from Call Me Sassafras contacted me this past month to pitch an idea: A giveaway where participants not only needed to mindlessly click through social media links to join, but actually had to get to know us a little better in the process. Doesn't that sound fun? Plus, it's a great way to find new blogs! I've been reading Call Me Sassafras for as long as I can remember, and Allie is always funny and honest and writes about neat topics that I can't find anywhere else in my Bloglovin' feed (e.g. useful science!). In fact, you should definitely check out her giveaway post today, which includes four easy and effective ways to discover new blogs.

And now, for the main dish, here is the blog scavenger hunt to help you discover and love some new blogs!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Giveaway! A picture is worth a thousand words.

A few months ago, I was pleasantly surprised to learn I had been voted the "Bookish Babe Blogger" for Angie's annual Best of Blog awards! As part of my award, Angie graciously offered me free ad space on her blog and the chance to participate in her monthly sponsor giveaway. This month, the prize is an adorable Fujifilm Instax Mini 8. :) Continue reading after the jump for giveaway details.


Monday, August 24, 2015

6 Ways to Make Your Mornings More Productive

Morning is an important time. It sets the tone for your entire day, and it's home to the best meal ever (see #5 below). Since I went back to school and changed jobs last year, I've been spending a lot of time at home, so a morning routine has become more important than ever to start my day off right. Today, I'm sharing five six easy tips to help make your mornings more productive as well!

1. Don't use the snooze button. Pretty self explanatory, right? Does anyone really feel better after getting 15 extra minutes of half-sleep in the morning? I know I don't.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

I like my Instagram feed pretty and filtered.

Good morning, my name is Megan, and I'm addicted to Instagram.

But really.

I love Instagram. I love looking at the gorgeous book flatlays created by Instartists like Ursula and Andie. I love adding to my never-ending wanderlust list when I see where Christie and Jenna have traveled lately. I love learning fun facts from the National Archives and American History Museum, among others. I love keeping up with friends from college through filtered and perfectly cropped squares, and I love seeing the final results of 'grammers taking 23 pictures of their lattes to make sure they captured the foam just right.

I know there has been a lot of buzz—especially in the blogosphere—about Instagram putting pressure on people to have "perfect lives," but I don't feel that way at all. Yes, sometimes when I see the vibrant colors on Melyssa's account or the crisp white stills from Helene, I wish I had fun little office accessories to photograph. But to be completely honest, if someone were to share unfiltered photos of boring, everyday things, or used Instagram to complain about what was going wrong in his/her life, I probably wouldn't follow that user. I like my Instagram feed to be full of positive, beautiful things. Is that so bad? I agree those photos shouldn't be at the expense of honesty, but I don't see why those two ideas have to be mutually exclusive.

Are you an Instagram user? What are your thoughts?

Linking up with Kenzie and Angie for their August 12x30 Challenge: photo a day! All photos in this post are my Instagram photos for the challenge.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Top 10 Most-Read Authors

It's been a while since I've done a Top 10 Tuesday post with The Broke and the Bookish, and Goodreads makes today's theme so easy! So here are the 10 authors I've read the most books from (since 2008, when I started using Goodreads, unless the book was one of my favorites so I added it anyway, e.g. Harry Potter or The Bridge to Terabithia):

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Best of Summer: Two Months in Review

Technically, I know August is still summer (and most of September), but I'm trying not to let three months go by again without a little life update from yours truly.

Most Popular on Instagram & Notable Events

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

This summer has been pretty slow thus far; I'm only taking one summer class and back to working one part-time job, but somehow having all that free time means I'm not motivated to do anything. I'm constantly thinking, "Oh, I don't work tomorrow, I can do that then...." Does anyone else get this way? Do you have any tips to get me motivated?? :) We have taken a few trips, however, in true #travelbug fashion. We attended a wedding in Hollister, I spent a weekend in Pasadena with my mom, I visited my grandparents in Pennsylvania for the Fourth of July (hence the airplane sunrise photo above), we visited some cousins at the beach in mid-July, and we just got back from a long weekend in Vail (more photos to come soon!). Hmm, now that I write it out I guess we've been busier than it seemed.... ;)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Grammar Guide: Since vs. Because

Welcome to a new series on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life: Grammar Guide! Grammar tips are something I've been wanting to share on the blog for a while, but I've always been nervous because I, too, make mistakes. What if I made a grammatical error in a post about grammar?? Wouldn't that be embarrassing?? (If I do, please feel free to point it out in the comments below, so I can fix it as soon as possible! Seriously!)

Today, I'll start with something basic but important: the difference between "since" and "because."

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Summer 2015 Book Challenge: Month 3

Welcome to the third #SCSBC15 check-in! If you're new to the challenge, feel free to review the rules here. Remember, all books you've read back to May 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.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer 2015 Book Challenge: Month 2

Welcome to the second #SCSBC15 check-in! If you're new to the challenge, feel free to review the rules here. Remember, all books you've read back to May 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.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Top 10 Books on my Summer TBR List

Ahhhh, summer! Although it is actually my least favorite season, now that I'm back in school, summer means way more time for reading, so it can't be all bad. :) I'm hoping to read a LOT this summer to make progress on my reading challenges (and this fun read-a-thon I found on Instagram yesterday). Here are the 10 books (adult and YA) I most want to check off my extensive TBR list before fall comes around:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Let's Discuss: Book Reviews & Ratings

photo via Instagram

This might come as a shock to you, but ... I always skip book reviews in my blog feed. (But I will skim your monthly recaps and check out your ratings! Just not your reviews.) That might seem weird, considering I love reading and blogging about books, but I don't particularly love book reviews for a few reasons:
  1. I'm terrified of spoilers.
  2. Lately, I've been picking up books that look interesting or have gotten a lot of buzz without necessarily knowing what the story is about. A book review would give me more information than I want to know.
  3. If I want to read reviews, I just go to Goodreads. (Are we friends yet?? Check out my reading history here!)

Monday, June 8, 2015

How do you measure success?

Deep thoughts on this Monday morning....

photo via Instagram

I had just walked into the break room at work a few weeks ago when a co-worker caught me off-guard with a very deep question:

What does being successful mean to you?


I was definitely not expecting that. I answered with the first thing I thought of: "Being happy with what you have while always striving for more." (And then, of course, I immediately wrote it down so I could share it with all of you and start a conversation here on the blog.)

My co-worker then clarified his question: At the end of my life, how would I measure my success? Would it be money? Children? Something else? I answered that I would consider my life to have been successful if I had changed something (or someone) in the world, for the better. Some people enact positive change through raising families, others through having influential careers, and others through volunteer or charity work. Everyone works their own magic in their own ways, but I think the most important thing is that the choices you make in your life help make someone else's life better.

For others, I think success could be measured by having children and raising a happy, healthy family. Others could measure success monetarily, if only to say, "I want to send my kids to college" or "I want to be a homeowner." Others might measure their life success by their success in their career(s). Some of you probably measure success in a way I've never considered!

So now I have to ask: How do you measure success?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Currently: making "wedding guest" my part-time job.

photo via Instagram

playing | Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! on my Podcasts app. I haven't been listening to my favorite podcasts as often as I would have liked over the past few months, but I've been trying to catch up on old episodes! Plus, it's good motivation to go running or cycling because I can listen while I exercise. :)

going | to all the weddings! As you may know, I married my high school sweetheart last fall, and since then I have attended the weddings of four high school classmates and will be celebrating yet another Class of 2008 wedding next weekend. How crazy is that?? Even crazier: Three of these newlywed couples are also high school sweethearts. I swear, there is something wrong abnormally romantic about my high school class.... :)

wearing | these pants from Anthropologie as often as more often than is acceptable. They were a splurge (actually, not for me—thanks, Mom!) but sooooo comfortable. I need to get a few more colors when they go on sale. They are perfect for all the squatting, crawling and general shenanigans I do at the library each day.

sipping | water, mostly! Trying to stay hydrated as the weather heats up in California.

reading | the fabulous young adult novel I'll Give You the Sun. Noah's voice is five stars on its own. I'm not loving Jude's storyline as much though, so we'll see how the novel ends up for me.

What are you up to currently?

Linking up with Anne and Jenna for Currently, and Becky for her Currently link-up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Best of Spring: Three Months in Review

Hi! Remember me? :) I know I've blogged before about how "I'm too busy" is really not an excuse, and I still agree with that. That being said, between a full-time job, a part-time job and a full load of graduate classes (a.k.a. four) for the past few months ... let's just say blogging has not been a priority for me. :) But, my full-time job ended last week and spring quarter ends next week, so I look forward to being more present on the blog over the summer! For now, here's a quick update on what's been going on with me this spring.

Most Popular on Instagram & Notable Events

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Of course my most popular photo of the last three months has Jonathan in it ... and three of the four are about books. Should I just change my Instagram to a bookstagram already? ;) In all seriousness, we did get to take some pretty fun weekend trips this spring. From seeing Newsies in Hollywood (bottom right) to celebrating my little brother's college graduation to attending a wedding in Malibu to hiking in Aptos to wine tasting in Sonoma, there was only one weekend in all of April and May that we were home! (And that was this most recent weekend, when I wrote and scheduled this post. Woot!)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer 2015 Book Challenge: Month 1

Hello, readers! It's been one full month since the summer book challenge began, which means it's already time to check in with your progress! If you are new to the challenge, feel free to review the rules and categories here. Remember, all books you have read dating back to May 1 count, even if you just joined the challenge yesterday (or today)! Continue reading after the jump to learn how to check in with your progress.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Semi-Charmed Summer 2015 Book Challenge

It's time for the next installment of the Semi-Charmed Book Challenge series! Whether you are a newcomer to the challenge or a repeat reader, I am so happy to have you here today! Continue reading after the jump for the challenge rules and categories. :)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

On My Bookshelf: All the holds!

As you may already know, I love the library. Fortunately for my future profession, a lot of other people also love the library. Unfortunately for my desire to read more current fiction, that means I sometimes have to wait months to read a particular book ... or, in this case, five.

That's right, five of my holds (some of which I'd been waiting for since January) came in on the same day last week. Now I only have three weeks to read them all before they're due back and I have to wait in line again—eek! I finished All the Light We Cannot See last night and am getting ready to snuggle in and start The Girl on the Train today. This is actually my book club book for March, so I really need to get cracking!

I know many of you are also readers, so please help me: Which book should I read next?! The other two may have to go back to the library unread, so this is a pretty intense decision! ;) Your options are Station Eleven (I've heard GREAT things about this one from all different kinds of readers), The Boys in the Boat (a nonfiction book about an Olympic rowing team from the University of Washington, recommended by one of my classmates) or Everything I Never Told You (a contender for our April book club selection). Your advice is appreciated!

How do you choose your next book when you have way too many good options?

Linking up with Lori for Saturday Situation.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Winter 2014 Book Challenge: Final Scoreboard

There were eighteen finishers for this season's reading challenge! Awesome job, everyone, that is definitely a record! And if you didn't finish this time but want to try your hand again, be sure to check back on April 15 for the summer reading challenge list. :) I apologize for the confusion in my poll during my last check-in, but four months won for the summer challenge, so it will run from May 1 to August 31. Get excited! :)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Best of February: A Month in Review

Happy March, everyone! I've been a little absent lately because I started a second job in the middle of February (yay for my bank account! nay for my schedule), but it's only a temporary gig so I should be back in a regular schedule sometime in May. :) Until then, I look forward to sharing snippets of my life when I can! Today, that means a February recap:

Most Popular on Instagram & Notable Events

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

All the books! And my in-laws' new lambs. My sister-in-law had her first son last weekend (yay!), so we went back to our hometown to be there for the birth. My husband's family has a few animals on their property (mostly sheep), so I enjoyed watching these little guys run around outside for a bit.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Winter 2014 Book Challenge: Month 4

Happy March, everyone! It's my birthday month and my first nephew was born this morning (yay! hence the late check-in post—sorry!), so this is a pretty good month, in my humble opinion. :) This post is the final opportunity to check in for the winter 2014 book challenge. Congratulations to the ten people who have finished already! Woohoo! Continue reading after the jump for the full scoreboard and final check-in instructions.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wedding Wednesday: Engagement Photos!

It's been almost two years since I got engaged, and more than a year since we took our engagement photos, but other than a few teasers, I've never shared them on the blog. So, today is your lucky day! :)

Personally, I was way more excited about our engagement pictures than I was about our actual wedding pictures. Obviously, I loved the way our wedding photos turned out, but I have a theory about wedding photos: They are (almost) all pictures of a loving couple in a tux and a white dress. Yes, you can get pretty creative with wedding shoots, but I think engagement photos are where a couple's personality really comes through. Here are a few of my favorites from our November 2013 engagement shoot:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why I Don't Wear Make-Up

Here's the short history of my relationship with cosmetics: In middle school, when all my friends started wearing make-up, I'd occasionally experiment with eye shadow. Like, once every two months. In high school, my mom had to practically lock me in her bathroom to do my face for formal events like Homecoming and prom. I always assumed I would start wearing make-up when I got to college, but even then I only found myself applying make-up for special events like sorority recruitment or interviews. When I got my first office job after graduation, the make-up still didn't make an appearance after the job interview.

Now that I'm in my mid-20s, I still don't wear make-up on a daily (or even regular) basis. Want to know why?

photo via Jorg Weingrill on Flickr

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

This Cambodian Temple is Even Better than Angkor Wat

I'll admit it: When I told my husband I wanted to make a detour to Siem Reap during our Thai honeymoon, it was purely to see Angkor Wat. During our three days in the province, however, we saw A LOT of temples, and this one took the cake.

I enjoyed Beng Melea (also spelled Beng Mealea or Bung Mealea) the most because this temple has not been restored, so we were literally trekking through the jungle to explore the temple. When we first arrived, I was tsk-tsking at all the completely disrespectful tourists wandering off the path to climb on the rocks. The nerve, right?! That is, until our own guide hopped off the wooden platform and beckoned us to follow him down into the ruins. Don't mind if I do....

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Best of January: A Month in Review

I know everyone is probably saying this, but holy cow: The first month of 2015 is already over! After changing jobs, starting graduate school and getting married last year, I'm happy to report my first month of 2015 was much more relaxing. Here's a quick rundown of my going-ons for January:

Most Popular on Instagram & Notable Events

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Three of these photos are actually throwbacks; the only thing pictured above that actually happened in January was reading A Storm of Swords. ;) If you missed it, I also guest posted for the Girl Gone International account for a week in January and had a boatload of fun! As far as traveling/weekend outings, my husband and I rang in the new year in Pasadena with my family. (The weekend involved lots of football-watching, drinking and walking around town.) We then drove down to the Central Valley the next weekend to celebrate a belated Christmas with my other side of the family (holidays certainly multiply when you're a child of divorce). Luckily, the next two weekends were fairly relaxing (aside from me doing a ton of homework), and we managed to squeeze in two day trips to San Francisco and a night of drinks in Palo Alto for a friend's birthday. This month is shaping up to be similarly low-key, but we have lots of trips planned for the spring!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

8 Gifts for Readers

This post was originally published as a guest post on Ever Emma in December 2014.

With Valentine's Day quickly approaching, I thought I would republish this holiday gift guide to inspire anyone dating a reader. Enjoy!

For the friend who can't stop Instagramming #currentlyreading photos: Seriously. This library card phone case comes in all iPhone sizes and even some Samsung Galaxy sizes. How perfect is it?
$15 from Etsy

For the bibliophile whose bookshelves are a work of art: There are a ton of adorable bookend sets out there, but I'm currently swooning over these gorgeous metal bookends. And if you're looking for something a little more affordable, you can't go wrong shopping at World Market. ;)
$64.99 from Etsy

For the friend who drinks way too much tea: I don't even like Will Ferrell, but this quote from Anchorman always makes me laugh. I also particularly liked this mug and this one; there are so many great bookish mug options!
$16.99 from Etsy

For the ebook-lover who doesn't want to admit it: I would love one of these gorgeous Kindle covers so I could pretend I was still flipping real pages. As much as I love my Kindle, I have to admit paperbacks will always have my heart.
$40.20 from Etsy

For the friend who cohabitates with a non-reader: Looking for more of a stocking stuffer? A simple book light is the perfect solution for that friend (ahem, me!) who likes to stay up reading long after her partner has switched out the light.
$9.67 from Amazon

For the tech-averse friend who still writes everything down: If you know that one holdout who refuses to sign up for Goodreads, this book journal is the ideal way to track her favorite reads (and not-so-favorite, sometimes).
$19.95 from Moleskin

For the tech-savvy friend who prefers ebooks: I have to admit I've never used Oyster, but this unlimited ebook subscription looks perfect for anyone who's attached to their Kindle (or Nook).
$9.95/month from Oyster

For the bookworm who lives in a studio: (Or anywhere else small enough to prevent having a book nook, really.) This bookish curtain panel would liven up any reading corner.
$17.95 from H&M

Monday, February 2, 2015

More & Less in February

Is it just me, or is "February" one of the weirdest words in the English language? I did spell it correctly in the graphic, right?? Anyway, I received pretty positive feedback on my "more and less" New Year's Resolutions last month, and I thought it would be a good way to outline my monthly goals for the rest of the year! Here's what I hope to do more and less of in February:

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Winter 2014 Book Challenge: Month 3

Greetings! How is everyone doing? I, for one, am super excited that I read several non-challenge books recently and still only have one category left. Woohoo! Congrats to the five people who have finished already.* And for those who haven't—you still have one whole month left! And if you don't finish, oh well. :) I just hope you found some books you loved along the way and pushed your reading choices out of your comfort zone. If you're new to the challenge, feel free to review the rules for the winter challenge here and jump right in with all the books you've read since November 1. Continue reading after the jump to see the current scoreboard and learn how to check in with your progress.

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.