My All Time Favorite Books

Untitled Banner-3

I am a huge nerd. To me there is nothing more comforting than cozying up in a big chair with a mug of coffee and a good book. Ditto for lounging in a Barnes & Noble aisle with a cup of Starbucks. I could continuously purchase more and more books and never be truly satisfied.

That being said, not all books are created equal. It was extremely hard for me to narrow down my favorites to just six, but for you I’ll do it! This list is a mix of classic literature, history, and romance. I hope you find at least one title to enjoy!

  1. From the Ashes of Sobibor, by Thomas Blatt. This is the true story of Sobibor, a Nazi death camp, and the escape of two hundred prisoners. Blatt begins his story prior to the camp as he avoided being captured, and continues to describe his experiences in the camp, as well as his survival afterwards. There is no book like this in my opinion. I’ve taken several classes on the Holocaust, read many a book, and this one is hands down the most heart wrenching. I’ve read it several times over and never fail to be deeply moved.
  2. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. This is a coming of age tale of a young woman who grows to learn that she is control of her own destiny. Through beautiful prose, Hurston tell’s Janie Crawford’s story of growing up in the South, and how she fights against racism and sexism. This is my personal favorite because you don’t realize how much you’re learning about the workings of America when you’re learning about the life of Janie.
  3. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende. I first read this book in high school, and while I loved it then, I don’t think I understood the many meanings woven through out the text. The book tells the story of the Trueba family, all while explaining the social and political upheavals of post-colonial Chile. My description doesn’t do the book justice. The story incorporates elements of magical realism, and like TEWWG, you don’t know you’re learning while you read!
  4. The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. My all time favorite from Larson, the book tells the story of a notorious serial killer who used the World’s Fair of 1893 in Chicago to abduct his victims. Larson shows the killer’s actions in conjunction with the organizers of the fair and its meaning to the American public. A history book that reads like a good mystery, you won’t want to put it down!
  5. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. A lovely novel set in a small coastal Italian village, Walter shows us the complexities of human interactions. The romantic setting is contrasted by the tough realities that each character faces, and the setting of the 1960s’ adds intrigue for lovers of a time far different than our own. Highly recommend! Plus it’s set in Italy, did I mention how much I love Italy??
  6. Race and Reunion, by David Blight. This book is a true history book. Blight tells us about the aftermath of the Civil War, a story we rarely talk about. What happened when the battles were over? Blight attacks our memory of a peaceful and easy reunion, and reminds us that not everything happened perfectly. This book makes me question again and again how the war so long ago impacted American education and our lives still today. Such a wonderfully written history and worth your time.

That’s all I have to offer up today. Grad school is exhausting. I read three books a week, just for my class. That doesn’t include everything I do for my thesis. I know I shouldn’t complain because I know I’m exceptionally privileged just to make it this far in my education, but man, I just want to sleep. Have a lovely day, y’all!

Travel Memphis: Tips & Tricks

Memphis is another one of those destinations I’ve wanted to go my whole life. I mean the music itself is reason enough to go, but add on the BBQ? The nightlife? The history? Oh my goodness, this is a perfect place to spend a few days for a history/food/music lover!

FullSizeRender-6

My friend and I drove in for the night and part of the day. This was part of our road trip so we had limited time. To break it down, I’m going to tell you exactly what we did to pack in the most for our time!

  1. Go out on the town! There is no street more connected to Blues music than Beale Street. Don’t miss this opportunity. While the street itself is underwhelming as far as size, it more than makes up for it in music. Hit up Rum Boogie for the best live music!
  2. Need a midnight snack? The Blues City Cafe has amazing Gumbo Cheese Fries! I don’t think I need to say anymore here. IMG_5396
  3. You must tour Sun Studios! Packed full of memorabilia from the city’s music history, be sure to snap a photo with Elvis’ actual microphone.IMG_5410
  4. Another tour, and one that I think is the most important, is that at the National Civil Rights Museum. Centered at the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, the museum chronicles the long civil rights movement. This means the information starts at slavery in the United States, giving cultural information about Africa, and continues up to the assassination of King. It’s amazingly well done and I highly recommend.
  5. Stop for BBQ, obviously! We asked several locals for their recommendation and everyone suggest Cozy Corner. It was fabulous and what dreams were made up.
  6. Last but not least, stay with airbnb! This is the cheapest way to have a nice and safe stay in Memphis. We stayed at the BB King with Jamie! Jamie is delightful. This is an older home, a mile from Beale St. and an easy walk to Sun Studio. It’s super comfy and decorated in an eclectic style, similar to a Portland coffee shop. Jamie also makes a wonderful breakfast!

I would highly recommend a visit to this amazing city. It’s full of friendly people, fabulous food, and amazing history. What else could you want!

Pumpkin Spice Oreo Cookies

I was on a mission walking through Harris Teeter the other day when the Pumpkin Spice Oreos caught my eye.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I love Oreos, how could I pass these up?

A thought popped into my head. I have a yummy recipe for Cookies and Cream Oreo cookies, why not change it up for pumpkin season?!?

The original recipe is from Notes From Nessa, and I’ve linked it before. These are amazing cookies as is, but I wanted to add some of the fall flavor. To bring out the flavors of the Oreos’ I chose the butterscotch pudding mix, added the semi-sweet chocolate for some contrast to the sweetness, and spiced it up with the traditional pumpkin pie spices!

I have no control; I’ve eaten ten. These are so so so good. They’re like those Otis Spunkenmeyer cookies that have an incredibly rich and melty middle, but a solid crust. I’m incredibly proud of myself. Now go make these.

pumpkin

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 package Butterscotch Pudding Mix
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
15 Pumpkin Spice Oreos, chopped
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Cream together butter and sugars.
Stir in pudding mix.
Add eggs and vanilla to mixture.
Mix flour, baking soda and salt into mixture.
Chop 15 oreos into small pieces.
Add chopped Oreo’s and chocolate chips to dough.
Stir to combine.
Drop spoonfuls of dough onto greased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until slightly brown on top.
Make sure to let them cool!
ooeygooey
Look at this ooey gooey goodness!
Recipe adapted from here.

The Art of Giving

I was driving to work this morning when I saw a woman experiencing car trouble. Her car was blocking the lane on a busy side street. As I was passing, a man pulled over, threw on his caution lights behind her, and started directing the backed up traffic.

Clearly he was on his way to work, dressed in a suit and tie. But he took time to help make everyone else’s lives easier.

How many times a day do we wish someone else noticed we need help?

How many times a day do we take the time to notice if someone else could use reassurance? If we notice, do we stop?

It only takes seconds to make someone else’s day. Our world would be so much better if others took time out of their day to help just one person. The best part of it is you can use your own passions to influence happiness in others.

Me? I love baking, and so I bring sweet treats to my friends, my coworkers, and my students to help them with their day.

Everyone always appreciates a handwritten note. Or even a text asking how their day is going. The point is, just checking in with someone can affect their day. To know that someone is thinking about you can transform your mood!

I challenge you to go out and make someones day today. Just take a few minutes of your time, and I can guarantee you’ll feel better too!

Oregon Community College Shooting

In the wake of the Emanuel AME shooting in Charleston, where I call home now, President Obama came to deliver the eulogy for one of the shooting victims, Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

I asked someone at the time if they would attend, since after all this is our president, and they said “No, because he will politicize it.”

And I thought long and hard about that statement, because shouldn’t we allow members of the community to mourn without bringing up the issue of racial tension, or gun control, in an attempt to give a day of peace? But also, how are we to ignore the obvious? Doesn’t this make us worse than naive? In fact, doesn’t this make us ignorant?

Today someone targeted a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. For reasons that are unknown, it’s being reported that at least 7 are dead and 20 are injured. According to the Washington Post, we are now averaging more than one mass shooting per day in 2015.

I don’t usually post such things on social media because I generally find it useless. People will have their opinions and there is no sense in arguing about issues on the internet. However, I’m tired of feeling unsafe. I’m tired of watching people die for absolutely no reason. And I’m tired of having people ignore the issue, because god forbid, we learn a lesson from all this senseless killing. It’s time to stop being so ignorant. It’s time to make a change.

My heart and prayers go out to all the families affected. I pray we learn something from this horrible tragedy.

Favorite Fall Fashion

I’m in love with fall colors. For some reason all the rich hues make me feel a thousand times more beautiful than anything else in my closet.

Plus all the layering makes me feel like my outfits have so much more dimension, and thus, I feel more sophisticated.

The 70’s are back this fall, and so is suede! Think fringe, long loose waves with a center part, and simple details like lace and buttons. I love the richness of the suede fabric, it feels so luxurious. But of course, I cannot afford such luxuries on my grad student budget, so today I’ll be showing you some of my favorite (cheap) options!

outfit1

This faux blue suede dress is from Target and only $24! If I could live in Target I would, everything is such my style. The boots were a splurge from Sperry, hidden amongst the loafers and boat shoe extravaganza. I wanted the perfect pair of cognac booties so it took me awhile to find the perfect pair.

Most bloggers would style this with a floppy hat, and I think that’s great, but I’d look absolutely ridiculous with one of those on my head. I’m keeping it simple with my grandma’s vintage earrings and my favorite NYX Intense Butter Gloss in Toasted Marshmallow.

outfit2

I’m channeling an outfit worn by my style icon Emma Watson. I purchased this skirt from Nordstrom’s Rack for $34. I styled it with this simple Target v-neck that I tucked into the skirt. These flats I used in an earlier post have become my go-to as of late.

outfit3

I’m obsessed with the color wine. This Forever 21 skirt is only $17 and so perfect for the 1970s trend this season. I used the same Target v-neck, but this time tied it in a knot on my waist.The shoes are the trendy lace up flats and they’re from Charlotte Russe, and only $24!

I actually had a girl come up to me on the street to say my outfit was adorable. It made my day!

Apartment Tour

If I had an unlimited money tree I’d spend my life being a professional decorator. Afraid that I wouldn’t make money at it I went for a far more lucrative career path, teaching (that’s a joke).

But the point is I take pride at decorating my home and I feel way less stressed when my home environment is comfy. Has anyone lived in a place that grossed them out?

My first year of grad school I lived in the most disgusting apartment that was one step above a crime scene. I’m talking cigarette burned carpet, roaches, and mold. Good god was I happy when I got out of there.

With that experience behind me I went gangbusters helping my roommate to decorate the new place. I tried to fuse both our styles, which are thankfully very similar!

We wanted a cozy atmosphere that reminded us of home. We’re both from Portland and wanted the place to feel like the warm downtown coffee shops, a little vintage with overstuffed furniture to read a book in. I think this chair nails it!

thumb_IMG_5690_1024

I frequent TJMaxx and Homegoods like its my job. By checking back frequently I can find the best deals on the items I truly want to put together the picture in my head. I have also figured out when TJMaxx and Homegoods are the most likely to restock their inventory, so this helps my search as well. Plus these stores are affordable, which is obviously important to all of us.

thumb_IMG_5697_1024

Here’s the full view of the family area. Our place is in the process of being decorated for Halloween (notice the spider webs on the coffee table).

You’ll notice candles everywhere! I think they’re a great and cheap way to add coziness to any room.

thumb_IMG_5699_1024

My favorite area has to be this industrial shelf, random I know! I looked like a crazy person as I rearranged items on top of this shelf in the store. All items pictured are from TJMaxx!

thumb_IMG_5701_1024

I love the globe and the airplane since I have such a passion for travel. Plus they give a cool vintage vibe.

The Portland prints are from Zazzle! I don’t know if y’all have heard of this site but it’s perfect for personalized items and home decor, plus they have tons of these travel prints! The best part is they run specials all the time and I can often get these prints for no more than $5. SCORE. And of course, good old Target comes in with $2 frames for the win. I love floating frames, so classy and simple.

thumb_IMG_5702_1024

This wall art is located by the door. The wall was so empty and I think this pulls the room together nicely.

thumb_IMG_5694_1024

We continue the travel theme with these Ikea prints. I love the whimsy they portray, and the coral and grey pulls out the colors in the couch.

thumb_IMG_5703_1024

And the apartment tour wouldn’t be complete without Maci attacking her mouse. It’s not uncommon to come downstairs and find the floor littered with cat toys.

That’s all for today folks. What’s your favorite decor style? Where do you go for your steals?

Travel Nashville-Part II

I’m sad to say, the next morning we were a tad bit hungover.

But we pulled ourselves together and had some good old fashioned hangover food at the Pancake Pantry. A Nashville institution since 1961, I was delighted with the banana bread pancakes. Our waitress was hilarious too. My favorite part was the family feel of the place and it wasn’t out of the normal to chat with our neighbors.

IMG_4886

The day was spent roaming around Opryland, all in all, not my thing. But I did enjoy saying I’d been to the Grand Ole’ Opry! I was a rebel and sat on the guitar.

IMG_4894

The next day it was time to drive home to Charleston, but before we left we visited two more famous Nashville places!

The Loveless Cafe was top of my list and this is where we had breakfast. OH MY GOD. I had the biscuit sampler and it was just too good. A Nashville hot spot since 1951, the Loveless is located in an old motel off of US 100. You’ll see it from its bright neon sign!

IMG_4915

IMG_4913

The decor is country vintage, and the walls are covered in autographs from famous country stars. Which brings me to the must see tourist attraction in Nashville: The Country Music Hall of Fame, duh.

My friend Rachel and I are huge country fans so the stop was necessary.

IMG_4918

Overall we spent about an hour admiring the exhibits. I have to say that Alan Jackson’s was my favorite! There was a little too much text in the exhibits, so after a while it was overwhelming. But I still highly recommend it as a must-do!

This was a fantastic trip. Although typically touristy, I had such an amazing time and hope to get back soon.

Plus the road trip through North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains was pretty cool.

IMG_4935

Visit Nashville-Part 1

IMG_4905

Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to go to Nashville. I was raised on 90s’ country music (think Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn).

This past summer I finally made it, and got to spend time with a college friend at the same time!

Oh my lord, it was amazing. My friend Rachel flew into Nashville, and I drove up to meet her. We were lucky enough to stay at her friend’s home in Nashville so I didn’t have to pay for a hotel!

The 8-hour drive was intense, but once I got there we went out on the town. Our trip began at The Row, a restaurant downtown Nashville. I had the most amazing hot chicken, a Nashville specialty, and we listened to some beautiful live music.

From there we moseyed on up the street to The Patterson House. Oh My God, let me tell you about this place. It’s a speakeasy, decorated in 1920s art deco fashion, that specializes in high quality mixed drinks. Patterson refers to the Tennessee governor during the early 1900s who vetoed restrictions on alcohol. The rules are, no cellphones, no fighting, and leave with the people who you came with.

I had the most amazing drink, the creole fashioned. A play on the original old fashioned, the taste of the whiskey mixes with flavors of orange and coffee. Lord have mercy. I snuck a photo through snapchat, sue me.

IMG_4874

We continued downtown via golf cart, yes that’s right, they have a golf cart taxi service in Nashville. We went up, down, all around Broadway. The live music was incredible!

All in all, it was an amazing first day. Stay tuned for part II.

My Fall Bucket List!

Admittedly, fall is my favorite season. Maybe it’s because I’m from the Pacific Northwest where the season change is accompanied by soft rains, crunchy leaves, and wrapping oneself in a cozy Pendleton blanket!

I’ve already started decorating my apartment in fall colors and mini pumpkins. And that’s a pumpkin latte flavored coffee in my cup!

Here are the top 10 items I really want to do before the season ends:

Have a pumpkin decorating party!

Make this yummy Caramel Apple Sangria

And also in the food category, these fabulous cheesecake stuffed baked apples, perhaps for a date?

Visit a haunted corn maze, also a lovely date! Boone Hall has a wonderful one.

Indulge in ABC Family’s Halloween specials, starting Oct. 15th! Hocus Pocus, anyone?

Go apple picking, another great date. Ha, are y’all sensing a theme?

Decorate my nails in fall colors, loving this Butter London shade!

Purchase a plaid cape, so trendy (and cozy) right now!

Go on a hike to see the changing fall colors.

And of course, go to a football game!

Of course I have a bit of time before it starts to feel like fall in South Carolina, but it doesn’t hurt to pretend, right?