Friday, February 23, 2018

Abbreviations #45 | The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Who's That Girl? + The Tea Dragon Society

I've owned The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for years, ever since my sister Mel gave it to me for Christmas. Now, to preface my thoughts on this non-fiction guide to tidying using the KonMari method, I've always been an organized person. I give credit to my mother for that, as she always instilled in us the attitude that everything had its place and that organization was an admirable trait. It probably won't surprise you to hear that even before reading this, I was (and will continue to) always tidy around the house on a regular basis, as well as seasonally culling clothing and books and papers. So, why even bother picking this one up? Well, I think it's very interesting to see a different perspective on tidying and organization, and that's exactly what I got. While I don't necessarily think I'll 100% dive into applying the KonMari method to every aspect of my apartment and life (though I did end up tidying my closet and it was wonderful), I do think there were things that I could take away from this slim volume (like how to properly store socks, and the use you can get out of a shoebox). My favorite takeaways? First, I liked how she mentioned how important it was to appreciate the stuff you own and use. And second, I really liked how much she emphasized how important it was to surround yourself only with things that bring you joy. Anyway, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up ended up being a fascinating alternate take on organization. I was able to pull a few tenets to use in my own life, and I'm glad of it! If you're interested in changing up the way you clean up, well, this may just be a book you'd want to check out for yourself.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo | Publisher: Ten Speed Press | Publication Date: October 14, 2014 | Source: Hardcover gifted by my sister (Thanks Mel!)

I decided I needed a shift from my SFF reading so far for 2018, and picked up Who's That Girl? on a whim. I've had this chick lit novel for an age now with the intention of reading it last summer (which obviously didn't happen), but I've finally gotten to it. In this read, Edie finds herself unintentionally exiled to her hometown after a scandalous event at a colleague's wedding. She's assigned to ghostwrite an autobiography for star Elliot Owen while she's there, and as months go by, Edie slowly comes to terms with who she is, the people that matter and what she wants out of life. Now, this is the second Mhairi McFarlane novel I've read and I can definitely say that I enjoyed it more than the other one. It's a fun, slightly over the top read peppered with a few thoughtful observations about relationships and social media, and I flew right through it. While I don't think it's one that'll stay with me, nor did I think the writing stood out, I did end up liking it. Ultimately, however, I've read other authors that I personally enjoy more in this genre, and Who's That Girl? is simply a quick, solid, if ultimately average overall for me, read.

Who's That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane | Publisher: Harper Collins | Publication Date: September 6, 2016 | Source: Purchased the paperback

I hadn't heard of The Tea Dragon Society until BEA 2017, if I'm being completely honest. But I'm a sucker for adorable illustration styles like Katie O'Neill's! I ended up picking up a finished hardcover copy at NYCC 2017 - and I don't regret it one bit. First of all, the illustrations are just perfectly lovely in terms of style and coloring; they're basically totally my aesthetic. Second, the basic premise - that there are tea dragons in the world whose branches/berries/leaves can make magical tea and who are bonded with their owners - is already right up my alley. Third, it's just a really cute story about a girl who saves a tea dragon from harm and winds up being drawn to the lives of the tea dragons and their owners. My only complaint is that this is a little shorter than I would have wanted it to be, as I could've read pages and pages about the all these characters and their adventures! But all in all, it's charming, it's whimsical and it's something I'll keep and treasure in my personal library forever. (Also, I would really, really, really like to have a tea dragon of my own, please and thank you.)

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill | Publisher: Oni Press | Publication Date: October 18, 2017 | Source: Purchased the hardcover

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Tunes & Tales 2.0 | February 2018

Back in the day, Tunes and Tales was a series I enjoyed featuring some of my favorite albums alongside books each song reminded me of, but it ultimately ended up having an expiration date as I don't fall head over heels in love with a lot of albums in their entirety (though I will have posts coming up for my three favorite albums of 2017, which I'm excited about!). Anyway, I've decided to tackle this feature in a slightly different way going forward. I'll be sharing my five songs on repeat for each month, each paired with a relevant read, and including a link to my monthly playlist on Spotify (as I'm constantly adding to it up until the very last day). Happy reading and listening, friends!

When I sat down to pick five favorite songs for this month, I already knew which song topped my choices - Capital Letters, which is a collaborative tune from Hailee Steinfeld and BloodPop (and it's on the OST of Fifty Shades Freed). I fell head over heels in love with this delightfully happy pop tune the first time I heard it and listen to it every single day. It was also extremely easy to come up with a book that goes perfectly with it: Love, Life and the List, the latest (and my favorite) novel from Kasie West!

It was also really easy for me to pick my second song because I've also been listening to it nonstop since its release - Wild Love from my favorite, James Bay. It feels like I've been waiting for ages for a new song from him, and I'm so glad that this is the first new tune he's released because 1) it's brilliant, 2) it's something different and 3) it's still so him. I love it so, so much, and it seems fitting that the book I've paired it with is my first five-star read for 2018: Reign the Earth by AC Gaughen.

I'm a big fan of catchy pop songs, and I've always been a fan of Zedd's stuff, so it's no surprise that The Middle, his newest collaboration with Maren Morris and Grey, is part of my five picks. I've always got the chorus of this one stuck in my head (especially after listening to it during the day)! It took me just a little more time to figure out what book worked for this one, but it hit me in a stroke of genius that it matches More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer brilliantly.

Fun fact: I started watching Yuri on Ice, and I'm loving it! I really like the song that's used for the opening credits, so I had to include History Maker by Dean Fujioka this month.

Surprise! There's another song that's a Macky original on this playlist. Actually, it's not too much of a surprise considering most of the stuff he ends up producing is right up my alley, as it's singer-songwriter pop. He just finished up the track for You & I and I am obsessed. First of all, it's a great song, but second of all, it totally inspires fan fics and stories in my head. The lyrics made me think of The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas, which is a sequel that is even better than its predecessor! (It also works well as a pair for the K drama Goblin...)

If you're interested in checking out the rest of my monthly playlist, I'm sharing it below. What songs do you have on repeat this month? Anything you think I ought to listen to?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Table for Two #14: Snowdays NYC

Rachel of Hello, Chelly and I have teamed up once more to bring you a collaboration that involves two of my favorite things - New York City and food. We're proud to introduce Table for Two, where the two of us will be highlighting restaurants and dessert spots in New York City. You'll be hearing our personal opinions on the place and the food, as well as finding out about where you can go to try it out for yourself! This month, I get to talk about Snowdays NYC and Rachel will be telling you about Caracas Arepas Bar.

As many of you likely already know, Rachel and I are big fans of all things ice cream. (You should go and check out Rach's Project Ice Cream series for further evidence of this.) Even a really cold wintry day doesn't stop either of us when we're craving ice cream, and so, we trekked over to Snowdays NYC to have some of their shaved cream for ourselves and see what we thought. (In case you were wondering what shaved cream is, as per what their website says, it's "an evolution of Taiwanese and Korean shaved ices... Shaved cream pairs the fluffy texture of snow with the taste and creaminess of ice cream.")

But before we get into what we devoured from their menu, I wanted to mention how delightful the particular branch we visited is! It's brightly lit, so it looks incredibly inviting to passersby (especially at night), and it's got light wood, white and icy blue as the primary colors for the decor. Their signature mascot - a yeti - is prominently featured in a number of illustrations all around the shop, and the sight pretty much made me smile. I liked the simplicity of their set-up, as it was just the right balance between quirky details and minimalist vibes. Plus, it's definitely one of the bigger dessert shops I've gotten to go to in NYC!

Anyway, on to the actual star of the show - the shaved cream. Rach & I both considered getting some of their well-known combos, but we ended up both choosing to make our own desserts. I went for the sweet milk shaved cream topped with Oreos, Lucky Charms and chocolate sprinkles, while Rachel put together a combination of black sesame shaved cream topped with mochi and condensed milk. We also saw that they had some hot chocolate specials available, so Rachel got a matcha hot chocolate and I got a white chocolate hot chocolate. 

I have to say, first, that the hot chocolate was just okay. It tasted pretty ordinary overall, and I've certainly had better. But the shaved cream was fantastic! It does come in a rather large serving, but I still managed to clean out my cup completely. I thought the combination I chose worked out really well, and I loved that it was filling without being overwhelming. I definitely enjoyed it, and would totally visit again to get another taste!

Snowdays NYC has many branches, but the one we specifically went to was in the East Village (241 East 10th St., between 1st Ave. and Second Ave.). This branch is open from Monday-Thursday from 2pm-11pm, Friday-Saturday from 12pm-12am and Sunday from 12pm-10pm.


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