Monday, September 30, 2013

Autumn 2013 Book Challenge: The Preliminary List

When I host a book challenge, I like to host a little "pre-link-up" party 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 you list today. 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! See my preliminary list after the jump.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Week in Review: 09.28.2013

Good morning/afternoon/evening, everyone, depending on your corner of the globe! I'm back in the hometown again this weekend for the wedding reception of a family friend, so I'm writing this while alternately trying to drink my coffee and fight off my adorable but persistent mutt from laying his head right on my keyboard.

This week's "best of Instagram" feature is a little different than usual. Instead of showcasing my four most-liked photos on Instagram during the past week, I'm going to show you my non-#bookphotoaday photos (which happens to be exactly four photos!). I'll be doing a recap of the entire Banned Books Week photo challenge on Sunday, so you can see all my bookish photos then. (Or, you can follow me on Instagram at @mcstroup and see them now!)

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Book Chat: Banned Books

I am pretty darn disappointed in myself right now. I was so excited to blog about banned books for Jessica's Book Chat link-up this week, and now it's almost 10 p.m. and I haven't prepared anything. I really couldn't miss such an important topic, though, so here's just a small handful of banned or challenged books I've read and loved (click on the book covers to see my reviews on Goodreads):

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Semi-Charmed Autumn 2013 Book Challenge

Photo via @mcstroup on Instagram
It's time for the first autumn installment of the Semi-Charmed Book Challenge! :) Don't worry, you still have a week to finish up any books you're working on for the summer challenge. That one will end at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, September 30, and the autumn challenge will start at 12 a.m. on Tuesday, October 1. Woohoo!

Let's get started with the general rules. Even if you have participated before, please read the rules as I have made one important change! My re-readers out there will love it. :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cityscape on Camera: Granada & Ronda, Spain

Next stop(s) on my European Extravaganza recap: Granada and Ronda, two beautiful towns in the Andalusian region of southern Spain. Seville, which I recapped two weeks ago, is the capital of this region.

Granada is most famous for being the home of the Alhambra (which is where all but a few of the photos below were taken). We also shared a memorable night with Jose, a local gentleman who insisted on showing us the local bar scene. Before you jump to any conclusions, let's just say Jose told me he was sixty ... and then laughed. Because he was definitely older than that. Also, he spoke zero English, so my siblings and I got really good at our conversational Spanish that evening. (Or at least we felt like we were really good from all the vodka-tonics he kept feeding us.) Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of that night (just videos haha), but I had to share that story. Meeting locals is definitely the best way to party!

Alhambra palace on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life
Alhambra palace at night on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Currently: celebrating my favorite season!

It's the first day of fall! Woohoo! Get ready for an autumn-centric "currently" post today. I absolutely love autumn—it is my favorite season of the year, hands down—but I've been holding off on any autumn posts until the official first day. I'm happy it's finally here!

Casual autumn outfit by Megan of Semi-Charmed Kind of Life
Autumn pleasures by mcszr3 on Polyvore

reading | Skeletons at the Feast still. I took a short break last week to read Blue Like Jazz because its due date at the library was approaching, but I didn't get the chance to finish it before I had to return it. I've heard great things but honestly wasn't too impressed with the nine chapters I was able to read. Thoughts from anyone who has read it are appreciated!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Week in Review: 09.21.2013

Remember last week when I said the fiance and I were going to be social and go to a church picnic and a sorority alumnae happy hour? Yeah ... we only ended up going to the picnic. Then we just wanted to lie around and watch college football haha. I started my new job on Monday, so I logged my first 40-hour work week in a while, and Jonathan and I had a date at the drive-in theater last night, which is also an item on my 24 Before 24 list! Woohoo! Here's how the rest of the week looked:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Everyone should read this book.

As soon as I saw the Book Chat prompt for this week ("a book everyone should read once"), I knew exactly which book I was going to choose:

Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
In fact, my review on Goodreads was simply:
"Wow. Just wow. Everyone should read this book.
It could change your life."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Learning another language ... or not.

Welcome to Travel Tuesday! I have provided a suggested topic for this week, but remember, all travel-related posts are always welcome in my Travel Tuesday link-up. :) The suggested prompt this week is:

How much of a country's language do you learn before visiting?

Personally, while I would love to be multilingual, I know it's not reasonable to learn the language of every country before I visit, even conversationally. Most people I know pick a few key phrases to learn before they arrive, e.g. "Where is the bathroom?" "Where is the train station?" "My name is ..." etc. I always make a point to learn one phrase, and if I've learned that one phrase, I can generally get along with people just fine:

Literary Junkies: September 2013

Note: If you stopped by for Travel Tuesday, don't worry! The link-up will go live at 8 a.m. EST. This week's prompt: How much of a country's official language do you learn before traveling there?

I'm so excited to be co-hosting the Literary Junkies link-up this month! I'm also co-hosting The Book Chat on Thursday, so this is just a lovely literary week for me. :) Literary Junkies is an online book club (active on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads), and we have a link-up once a month where our hosts and co-hosts (me!) come up with a few book-related questions for all our members to answer. Read more after the jump to see this week's questions and my answers!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Top 10 Books on my Fall TBR List

As much as I love reading The Broke and the Bookish, I don't typically participate in their Top Ten Tuesday link-up because I already have my own Tuesday link-up. But then I had a brilliant idea: Why don't I just post my answers on Monday and still link up on Tuesday? Genius! So here's my list for this week: the top ten books I hope to read this fall.

All images via Goodreads

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Currently: enjoying homemade guacamole

I've been meaning to link up with siddathornton's "The Sunday Currently" for a long time, but my special projects kept taking up my Sunday posts on the blog (e.g. my summer book challenge and photo challenge, most recently). I almost postponed this link-up for another week because I already posted once today, but I changed my mind. It's my blog and I want to participate now! :) I hope you don't mind seeing me twice on your blog reader today. Now for the currently part ...

Photo via @mcstroup on Instagram
reading | Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian. I've read quite a few of his novels, but this is my first historical fiction novel by him, so I'm excited to see how well he does in the genre.

Pay It Forward: Blogger Style

Early last month, I got an email from one of those big, inspiring, has-more-followers-than-I-get-page-views-in-a-month bloggers, Rachel. She wanted to offer me a free ad space on her blog! I was so honored, especially because Rachel is primarily a travel blogger, and that's why I originally started this blog: to record and share my travels. This all came about because of a little project called Pay It Forward started by Stephanie at Be So Happy.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Week in Review: 09.14.2013

Welcome to another weekend, everyone! I'm planning to attend both a local parish picnic and a sorority alumnae happy hour today, so the fiance and I will be socializing a little more than usual. :) And of course, weekends are always better when you have college football and homemade guacamole—which we do! Let's take a peek at the past week:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Day in Monterey with Any Way the Wind Blows

Today I'm happy to welcome Sarah from Any Way the Wind Blows! She is sharing her itinerary for a fabulous day in the coastal California town of Monterey, so if a trip to the west coast is in your future, be sure to read on after the jump for great activities and eats.
~ ~ ~

Hey guys! I'm Sarah, and I blog over at Any Way the Wind Blows.

Sarah from Any Way the Wind Blows, guest blogger for Semi-Charmed Kind of Life

Thursday, September 12, 2013

#28: Be featured on blogger {av}'s "Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" series.

It has happened! After years of reading {av}'s fabulous blog, {long distance loving}, she chose me to be featured in her "Love Is" series!

image via {long distance loving}

A little background: {av} was my first "blog crush." I found her blog because she had this awesome series called "Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" (hence the title of this post, despite the recent name change to "Love Is"). Two bloggers I read faithfully (Christy and Kate) were actually featured, and I thought, "Gee, that would be so cool! I want to share my story and encourage everyone else out there in a long-distance relationship that it can work—and work so well!"

So I put it on my "bucket list" and contacted {av} to see if she had a spot in her schedule for me. Unfortunately, the series dwindled from a weekly feature to a special once-in-a-while feature, and then {av} stopped posting the feature altogether about a year ago. (Although I didn't stop reading her blog; she still posts beautiful content about travel, home, relationships, blogging tips, life—you name it! Plus it's always fun to join her Friday's Fancies link-up every once in a while.)

Then, last month, {av} announced she was bringing the series back, and she chose Jonathan and me to be her first featured couple! So from one excited fangirl to one gorgeous blogger: Thank you for taking the time to write about my story today!

Check out my story on {long distance loving} here. If you're visiting from {long distance loving}, you can read my full engagement story (with lots of photos!) here. And finally, if you want to see more photos of us throughout the years, check out my post from our 8-year anniversary last year here. :)

Thanks for stopping by! And thanks again, {av}!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Snail mail accessories.

Note: I recognize today is September 11, and I am thinking of the people affected by that tragedy. I wrote about 9/11 two years ago on this date, and I chose not to post about it today because I believe many bloggers have more to say on the subject, and I would rather read and respond to their words than create my own. But that doesn't mean I don't hold America close to my heart today, and every day. And if you are or know someone who was personally affected, I am thinking of you, too.

Now, for regularly scheduled programming:

I'm slightly obsessed with stationery. In fact, I had a specific line in my monthly budget last year for stationery and postage. (Told you it was an obsession.) I'd much rather receive a shopping spree in a Papyrus or Paper Source than in any clothing store, and my stationery collection takes up an entire cube in my shelving unit (and that's just the stationery I want to display).

Anyway, now that you understand the depths of my love for all things paper and postage, I wanted to share some of the adorable snail mail accessories I've found on Pinterest over the years:

top: yellow | chevron | red /// bottom: pink | green | embosser

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cityscape on Camera: Seville, Spain

I planned to share photos from my time in Seville, Granada and Ronda today, but there were just way too many photos. So today your get a special dose of Seville, and the other two Andalusian cities will be showcased on September 24. Next week is another topic-based week (see bottom of this post for the prompt).

Photo via @mcstroup on Instagram

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Banned Books Week: A Semi-Charmed Photo Challenge

I already announced this photo challenge in a Book Chat post a few weeks ago, but I wanted to dedicate a special post to make the rules/details easier to find. :) It's only two weeks away now!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Week in Review: 09.07.2013

This week included a lot of celebrations: Labor Day with my dad and sister, who I hadn't seen in months; my nine-year anniversary with my fiance; finally accepting a job offer in my new city; and my half-birthday! I have to say, it was a pretty good week. Here are a few glimpses:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fall Reads from Lovee, Seems

Today I'm very lucky to have Seema from lovee, seems guest posting here on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life! She is sharing four of her top literary picks for the fall, and she has something for everyone, from biography to poetry. If you're looking for a good book to pick up with that pumpkin spice latte or hot chocolate on a cool autumn night, be sure to read more after the jump!

~ ~ ~

Thursday, September 5, 2013

24 Before 24

I am posting this on September 5, 2013: Six months before my 24th birthday. In no particular order, I have devised a list of 24 items I think I can reasonably accomplish by my birthday but will still require me to challenge myself. The items range from silly to functional to inspirational, but I hope completing each one will help me to become a better person and live in a little happier of a world each day. :)

create your own word cloud here

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cityscape on Camera: Rome & Vatican City, Italy

Next up in my European Extravaganza recap series: Rome, Italy (including Vatican City)! I'm pretty late getting this Travel Tuesday post up, so it's going to be heavy on the pictures and light on the descriptions (but you only come for the pictures anyway, right?). If you want to know anything more about a specific picture, please ask! And make sure you're not a no-reply blogger so I can actually respond to your comment. :)

Photo via @mcstroup on Instagram

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Summer 2013 Book Challenge: Month 2

The Semi-Charmed Summer 2013 Book Challenge is two-thirds of the way through, and we've already had two people finish! Congratulations to Natasha and Bev! I'll be contacting you soon to get your category submissions for the autumn challenge. I've also heard rumor some other people might have finished in the past month, so I guess we'll have to see who checks in! See the full scoreboard for the first month after the jump: