I’ve been so ready for spring to hit after enduring the extra snowy winter in NYC this year. My favorite part of spring is enjoying all of the gorgeous cherry blossom trees lining the streets. The cotton candy pink petals against the clear blue sky is my favorite color combination in nature. I’ve been daydreaming about being able to attend Sakura Matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden again this year and since I never posted my photos from last year I thought now would be a good time to admire them until the weather outside matches the weather in these photos! (Sidenote, I can’t wait until my hair is that long again!)
For those that don’t know, Sakura Matsuri is the national cherry blossom festival which takes place in DC and commemorates when Mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted Japanese cherry trees to the United States in 1912. The first festival was held in 1935 in Washington DC and now there are several different states which host their own version of Sakura Matsuri. The Sakura Matsuri in Brooklyn has been occurring since 1981.
I love the idea of having a published Bucket List to reference when I’m planning future events and reflecting back on the past. Kristina Horner published a bucket list on her blog and it inspired me to type out my own so I can focus on making sure I accomplish as many of the things I want to do during my lifetime. I’ll be writing posts about the things I do and even flashing back to some things I’ve already experienced but were always a part of my list. What’s on your bucket list?
Visit Harry Potter World in Orlando Live in New York City
- Meet JK Rowling
- Harry Potter Studio Tour in London
- Tour Studio Ghibli
- Lord of the Rings Tour in New Zealand
Attend the Yule Ball
- Visit all of the Canadian locations in Scott Pilgrim
- Disneyland in Paris
- Disneyland in Tokyo
- Visit Club 33 at Disneyland
- Sakura Matsuri in Japan
Attend Sleep No More
- Wine tasting in Napa Valley
- Publish a novel
Own a pink KitchenAid mixer
- Drink champagne in front of the Eiffel Tower
- Cultivate and maintain a garden
Go to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade
- Learn to French braid hair
- The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff
- See the Chicago Bean
Go pumpkin picking See Shakespeare in the Park
- Go on a Jack the Ripper Tour in London
- Learn how to bake French macarons
See the Yayoi Kusama exhibit
- Go skiing
- Go to Coachella
- Go to The Louvre
Stroll through Central Park in the fall
- Complete NaNoWriMo
Sakura Matsuri in NYC
- Stay in the Library Hotel in NYC in the Fairy Tale room
- Tour NASA
- Ride a train across the country
- Stargaze on the Highline
- See Stonehenge
- Kiss Andrew atop the Eiffel Tower
Go apple picking
- See the Northern Lights
- Watch a sunset on a beach
- Go to all 50 states
- Climb a lighthouse
- Create a board game
- Fly in a private jet
Meet R.L. Stine
- See the Acropolis in Greece
- Stand on the Equator
- Visit The Globe Theater in London
Visit YouTube Studios
- Go strawberry picking
- Carve Andrew and I’s initials into a tree
- Attend the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
- Get married
Kiss Andrew in front of the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center
- Visit NBC’s Rainbow Room and Observation Deck
- Attend a live taping of SNL
Attend a live recording of Welcome to Night Vale
- Tour Pixar
- Tour Nintendo
Meet George Lucas
- Tour Google
- Attend BlogHer
Drink at the Met’s rooftop bar
- Learn how to use photoshop
- Visit the Glow Worm Caves
See the Hollywood sign Attend a movie premiere with a red carpet Walk the Brooklyn Bridge Meet Michio Kaku Own a pair of Christian Louboutins Own a Chanel purse Style a fashion shoot Be styled for a fashion shoot by a celebrity stylist Attend an outdoor concert at Jones Beach Attend a farewell concert for a band I love Visit Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany Be thanked in the acknowledgements of a published book Meet Neil Gaiman Meet Stan Lee Get a Sandman tattoo Fall in love Help out at a fashion show Get published
Be on a television show Be made fun of by Joel McHale on The Soup Have an IMDB page Speak on a panel at a convention Moderate a panel at a convention Live in Los Angeles
- Read all of the books I own
- Get a Harry Potter tattoo
Attend San Diego Comic Con Attend Star Wars Celebration Attend Book Expo America
- Walk and shop along the Champs-Élysées
- See a show at the Moulin Rouge
- See the Cirque de Soleil Beatles LOVE show in Las Vegas
Drink gluhwein at Rolph’s during Christmas season
- Go to the Labyrinth Masquerade Ball in LA
- Buy a vintage typewriter
- Visit The Last Bookstore in LA
The Walking Dead Tour in Atlanta
- Visit Powell’s Bookstore in Portland
- Visit the Space Needle in Seattle
Attend an event in the Great Hall at Whimsic Alley
- Visit the castle in Scotland that Hogwarts was based on
- Go to Star Wars Weekends at Disney
- Meet Peter Jackson
- Go to a Renaissance Faire
- Attend the Holi Festival in NYC
Take a photo in front of the mirror fence at Storm King
I had such a blast putting together the Doctor Who party I hosted for the premiere of season 9 that I decided to make seasonal theme parties a thing in my apartment. Thankfully, my roommate Taylor was totally on board with my idea for a Star Wars Christmas party! Nothing says Merry Christmas like a Wampa in a Santa hat, am I right? My other friends decided that it should be an all encompassing space Christmas party, but I’ll get to that later.
My favorite food I made were the Chewbacca cookies. They were also (surprisingly) one of the most simple. I simply bought a box of chewy Chips Ahoy cookies (Chewy because.. right, you get it), and used an icing tip to spread a diagonal brown line of chocolate. I then pressed white pearl sprinkles into the icing and voila!
Another three easy dishes that required little to no work were the chocolate and honey flavored Teddy Grahams starring as Ewok cookies (creepy, right? I bet you’ll never look at one of those the same way!), pizza bagels as C3PizzaO’s, and cinnamon buns as Princess Leia buns.
Next I made chocolate covered lightsaber pretzels! These were pretty easy and I’m really pleased with the way they turned out. I used mini red M&M’s as the button on the hilt of the lightsaber. I also baked a Star Wars cake and I used the Star Wars cookie cutters from William Sonoma to cut out Stormtrooper heads in fondant (and then covered the cake in Christmas sprinkles). Lastly, I made Tie Fighter graham cracker treats which consisted of a graham cracker halved and held together by peanut butter and a marshmallow.
Taylor made some delicious Star Wars sugar cookies (which I’m going to be expecting every year now that he baked them for me two years in a row). And Melissa baked these incredible muffins which she decorated with Star Wars cupcake toppers!
Andrew is always the most helpful when it comes to decor! He printed these lovely signs for me to hang (my favorite is the bathroom sign which is still currently hanging on our door. It read “Please remember to wash your Hans” and I still cannot look at it without bursting out laughing). Andrew also printed the food signs I designed 9which you can see in the photos above) and he drew the Yoda face on our plates. Taylor somehow managed to throw the Wampa atop his bookshelf (with a Santa hat on it mind you) in the perfect position. I picked up a few Santa hats of my own for my Stormtrooper candy bowl (festively holding candy canes), and my life size R2D2 trash can from ThinkGeek which is used solely for storage.
I wore my favorite Her Universe Star Wars dress for the occasion with a festive emerald green statement necklace from ModCloth. Cassie insisted the party was for Star Trek and she bought a redshirt dress specifically to wear. Melissa wore a She-Ra sweatshirt because it was Christmasy (but she brought a Star Wars purse because she loves me). Lauren wore an R2D2 hoodie and her boyfriend Matt wore a Buzz Lightyear hoodie because Cassie made the Facebook invitation and confused the heck out of everyone. But it was Giovanni that really took the cake. He came dressed as Arthur Dent in a bathrobe carrying a towel. He has strong dedication to jokes. We played the original Star Wars trilogy in the background with Christmas music as sound but toward the end of the night we switched over to Taylor’s Xbox and everyone danced for hours!
This Christmas I had the good fortune of being the luckiest girl in the world. I somehow managed to convince my amazing boyfriend Andrew that we should exchange Christmas presents early so that we didn’t have to carry them back and forth on several trains to and from our parents houses on the actual holiday (I bought Andrew a Wii U and I had enough trouble lugging it on the subway back to my apartment to even fathom carrying it another place [I am weak – see New Year’s Resolutions]). When we opened our gifts I thought I was going to cry (in the BEST way)! Andrew made my dreams come true yet again by handing me the pink KitchenAid Mixer I spend A LOT of time oogling online and IRL (seriously, I visit it in Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond more times than I care to admit). He was even smart enough not to buy it from my Amazon wish list because he knew that would be an item I would notice if it had disappeared.
The early exchange also really worked in my favor because I was able to use my present to bake all the Christmas cookies! I decided to try out different recipes than what I normally bake with my mom (tears that we weren’t together for baking this year) but I knew I’d be eating hers on Christmas Eve and Day so I headed to my Pinterest boards for recipes and these are the things I chose.
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas Cookies
Santa’s Shortbread Bites
Chocolate Chip Snowball Cookies
Christmas M&M Cookies
I forgot to take a photo of my finished M&M cookies… oops! But you can find the recipe on the back of any Nestle Tollhouse bag of chocolate chips. What are your favorite Christmas cookies? I’d love any recipe links too since I am now planning on baking up a STORM!
I’ve been wanting to read These Broken Stars by Aime Kaufman and Meagan Spooner for some time now so when I arrived at Barnes and Noble during a quick lunchtime bookstore browsing session and I saw that it had come out in paperback it was as if the stars of my book collection had aligned. Although, now that I’ve found out it’s a series and I enjoyed the first book, I’ll have to decide between waiting for the second book to come out in paperback or buying the hardcover and having a mismatched collection… but I’ll digress! I absolutely love the gorgeous cover (see below) so I was immediately drawn to it. The book was much more sci-fi than I was anticipating and I really enjoyed it overall.
Tarver, a youthful but honored war hero, and Lilac LaRoux, the heiress to her father’s spacecraft business, are the only two survivors of the catastrophe aboard the Icarus. They land on a strange and uninhabited planet and the pair must work together to try to get back home safely despite their differences. Lilac is a headstrong young woman who has closed her heart off to any experiences after being traumatized during her past. Tarver comes from a family of a lower status and Lilac instinctively tries to ignore him for (what she tells herself is) his own good. I’m really glad Lilac proves that she is stronger, braver and more intelligent than she initially lets on but it was a little bit of a challenge for me to like her.
I was slightly disappointed with the romance aspect of the book but the overall story and my curiosity about the planet were able to distract me from focusing too heavily on the something I felt was missing. I am looking forward to continuing reading on to book two so more of the loose ends will be tied up but I have heard that it centers around a different set of characters. These Broken Stars is beautifully written and I would suggest reading it if you’re in the mood for YA sci-fi.
It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.
Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.
Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?
Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it. (via Goodreads)
December was a GOOD month for book shopping. Between Christmas and an exceptionally high number of visits to bookstores I added quite a few new titles to my personal library, all of which I hope to read in 2015. I have already read (and posted reviews for) a few of the books below with more coming. Have you read anything I picked up in December? What should I read next?!
Gift from Andrew’s Brother Joe
Gift from my bookish Secret Santa Michelle
Gift from Carolyn at Simon & Schuster
Gift from my cousin Rachel
Gift from Cassie (My True Love Gave to Me UK Edition)
Gift from Andrew’s brother Greg
Before ever watching any video put out by the YouTuber Zoella, I had come across her book on Amazon and the plot of the story drew me in (basically, girl with blog meets cute boy). I picked up a copy of the book from The Strand and I quickly moved it to the top of my TBR pile. About halfway through I came across articles about Zoella and the controversy surrounding the book I was currently in the middle of reading. It turns out that Girl Online was actually written by a ghostwriter (Siobhan Curham) and people were getting very upset about it.
It’s nothing new for publishing houses to employ ghostwriters to pen the books that most celebrities slap their names on but something about this felt different. It led me to think long and hard about why I had such an off feeling about something I’ve accepted so easily in the past until I drew this conclusion: It’s different for a person who develops all of their own content to pass something off as their own original work. Despite the amount of involvement Zoella may have had in the initial brainstorming process, she didn’t put the proverbial pen to page and write the finished product. This leads to dangerous territory because Zoella will inevitably lose some credibility with her YouTube fans.
Girl Online was the first book published by Keywords Press, a division of Simon & Schuster created solely to publish books written by people with influential online persona’s. This also leads me to wonder if Keywords will be hiring ghostwriters for all of the books they’re going to publish in the future or if they’ll take the Zoella catastrophe into consideration when making future decisions.
Overall, I struggle to admit that I enjoyed aspects of Girl Online. It was by no means a favorite of mine, but it was one of those quick and easy reads that I need every once in a while. I found myself actively acknowledging that the writing is poor and the story is predictable yet I somehow managed to form an attachment to the main character? The story was FULL of common character tropes, cliched plot elements, and current pop culture references that will not date well. But I did enjoy the New York City adventure, the cute Brooklyn boy, and the blogging portion (despite the overly cheesiness of it). I honestly think I would be too embarrassed to recommend this book to anyone because of all the issues I recognize within it despite my ability to like it.
What are your feelings on ghostwriters? Does your opinion also differ since this time it involves a YouTube star?
Penny has a secret.
Under the alias GirlOnline, she blogs about school dramas, boys, her mad, whirlwind family – and the panic attacks she’s suffered from lately. When things go from bad to worse, her family whisks her away to New York, where she meets the gorgeous, guitar-strumming Noah. Suddenly Penny is falling in love – and capturing every moment of it on her blog.
But Noah has a secret too. One that threatens to ruin Penny’s cover – and her closest friendship – forever. (via Goodreads)
This is one of the strangest “Books I Read In ____” posts I’ve ever written because in 2012 I read a total of 104 books, in 2013 I blew my goal of 120 books away and I read a total of 189 books, and in 2014, I’m sad to say that I did not make my goal. There are several reasons why this happened (some of which you can read about in my 2014 recap) and some of which I’ll outline here. 99% of the books I read in 2013 were graphic novels which are much quicker reads. I really wanted to focus on getting back in touch with my love for YA this year so the books I read had much higher page counts and slowed me down a bit. Another reason I think I read less is because you know how you can read a book, fall completely in love with it and then you’re just not ready to start a new one right away? That happened to me A LOT this year. I really think I spoiled myself with well written books this year. Also I read the entire Nana manga series Nana by Ai Yazawa because her other series Paradise Kiss is my favorite manga of all time. Little did I know that Ai Yazawa would be taking a hammer to my heart and crushing it to pieces with Nana. I’m still not over it. So my grand total for 2014 only came to 91 books. Considering that I lowered my goal to 100, I suppose I didn’t do too horribly but I still don’t feel good about it. So 2015 is officially going to be a year of READING.
Here’s everything I finished in 2014! I tried to hold back and only bold the titles I REALLY loved but there were so so many! Did you make your reading goal for 2014? If not, have you strategized your reading plan for improving in 2015?
1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
3. The Archived by Victoria Schwab
4. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Leviathan
5. The Diviners by Libba Bray
6. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
7. Looking For Alaska by John Green
8. The Unbound (Archived Book 2) by Victoria Schwab
1. City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments Book 2) by Cassandra Clare
2. Cress by Marissa Meyer
3. Locke & Key Volume 6: Alpha & Omega by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
4. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
5. Sailor Moon Volume 8 by Naoko Takeuchi
6. Sailor Moon Volume 9 by Naoko Takeuchi
7. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
1. Nightwing: The Hunt for Oracle by Chuck Dixon
2. Vampire Academy 2: Frostbite by Richelle Mead
3. Nightwing: Big Guns by Chuck Dixon
4. John Constantine Hellblazer: Original Sins by Jamie Delano
5. Nightwing: On the Razor’s Edge by Chuck Dixon
6. Preacher Volume 4 by Garth Ennis
7. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
8. Gotham Central Book 3 by Greg Rucka
1. Superior Spider-Man Volume 3 by Dan Slott
2. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
3. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellairia
4. The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
1. Nana Volume 2 by Ai Yazawa
2. Nana Volume 3 by Ai Yazawa
3. Nana Volume 4 by Ai Yazawa
4. Nana Volume 5 by Ai Yazawa
5. We Were Liars by Rachel
6. Nana Volume 6 by Ai Yazawa
7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
8. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
9. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
1. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
3. If I Stay by Gale Forman
4. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet
5. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
1. Two Wrongs by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
3. A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
4. Adventure of the Dancing Men by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes)
5. Afterlife with Archie by Roberto Aguierre-Sacasa
6. Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
7. City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments Book 3) by Cassandra Clare
1. City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments Book 4) by Cassandra Clare
2. The Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1) by Rob Thomas &. Jennifer Graham
3. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
4. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
5. Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher
6. The Unwritten Volume 6 by Mike Carey
7. The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia #1) by C.S. Lewis
8. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia #2) by C.S. Lewis
9. The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia #3) by C.S. Lewis
10. Rocket Girl Volume 1: Times Squared by Amy Reeder
11. Nana Volume 7 by Ai Yazawa
12. Daredevil Ultimate Collection Book 3 by Ed Brubkaer
13. Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia #4) by C.S. Lewis
1. Nana Volume 8 by Ai Yazawa
2. Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianne Wynne Jones
3. Adventure Time: Candy Capers by Yuko Ota & Ananth Panagariya
4. Nana Volume 9 by Ai Yazawa
5. The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
6. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
1. The Woods Volume 1 by James Tynion IV & Michael Dialynas
2. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
3. The Girl Who Circumvented Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M Valente
4. Ranma 1/2 vol 1 by Rumiko Takahashi
1. Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman
2. The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle Book 1) by Maggie Stiefvater
3. Nana Volume 10 by Ai Yazawa
4. Nana Volume 11 by Ai Yazawa
5. Nana Volume 12 by Ai Yazawa
6. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
7. Nana Volume 13 by Ai Yazawa
8. Nana Volume 14 by Ai Yazawa
9. Hawkeye Volume 3 by Matt Fraction
10. Teen Titans Earth One Volume 1 by Jeff Lemire
11. Nana Volume 15 by Ai Yazawa
12. My True Love Gave to Me by Various Authors
1. Nana Volume 16 by Ai Yazawa
2. Nana Volume 17 by Ai Yazawa
3. Nana Volume 18 by Ai Yazawa
4. Girl Online by Zoe Sugg
5. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman
6. Nana Volume 19 by Ai Yazawa
7. Nana Volume 20 by Ai Yazawa
8. Nana Volume 21 by Ai Yazawa
A few nights ago, Andrew and I finally went to see Into the Woods. Under normal circumstances I would’ve made it a priority to see it on opening night but since the film debuted on Christmas it was a near impossibility. I have loved the play and all of the music since I was in middle school so I was over the moon when I heard that Disney would be putting out a film version (many people would argue that I’m an eternal optimist). But seriously, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, and Emily Blunt all in one of my favorite musicals?! Yupp, I’m there.
I feel like it’s my responsibility to start by saying that Into the Woods was Disneyified. Since I completely expected this, it was easy for me to get over it (Andrew’s biggest complaint is that Agony Part 2 was cut, but I’ll let him wax poetic about that). I thought overall, the film was done really well. Meryl Streep plays an amazing version of the Witch. And James Corden! I have SO MUCH love for James Corden it’s almost unbearable. I was truly shocked that my favorite number (Agony) ended up being performed by the two princes, Chris Pine and Billy Magnuseen.
The catchiest song from Into the Woods will always be the prologue song of the same name which lays the groundwork for the rest of the story. The baker and his wife wish for a child, Cinderella wishes to go to the ball, Little Red Riding Hood wishes to see her grandmother, and the witch next door wishes to break the curse she placed on the barren baker and his wife so everyone must set off into the woods to achieve what they think they desire.
I also LOVED the costumes worn throughout the film. Little Red Riding Hood’s velvet cape with a satin bow is so incredibly gorgeous. Mr. Wolf (played by Johnny Depp) is also outfitted perfectly and I love his concealed candy collection beneath his jacket. Cinderella’s dress is gold toned which looked lovely on Anna Kendrick and Rapunzel’s dress is simply stunning! I was so excited that some of the costumes worn in the film were on display in the movie theater Andrew and I went to on the Upper West Side.
If you’re looking to enjoy some music and you love fairy tales with a more realistic ending, you should absolutely check out Into the Woods. Just be warned that it’s different than the original. But it’ll be impossible not to adore James Corden if you aren’t already familiar with him (all my Whovians know what I’m talking about).
Into the Woods is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales, intertwining the plots of a few choice stories and exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. This humorous and heartfelt musical follows the classic tales of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone), and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) – all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt), their wish to begin a family, and their interaction with the witch (Meryl Streep) who has put a curse on them. (via Disney)