Kind of lost a year there…

From here.

It wasn’t intentional to just stop writing. Things got in the way. What those things were escape me now. I tried to use Evernote to journal a bit but didn’t stick to that either. I also wasn’t cooking very much. Or apparently reading anything I felt so passionate about that I needed to share it. In many ways, 2014 apparently wasn’t worth writing about for me. Let’s start out 2015 (six days late) on a better note.

I need to cook more again. I am avoiding doing the analysis on my budget last year because I can guarantee my eating out spending was off the charts. What caused this? I’m not sure. A slightly demonic cat who gets into the way in the kitchen? A lack of good recipes to try? Complete and utter laziness…I’m actually voting the last one on this list. I have no excuse. This year’s first goal, cook more! Even if it’s not a new recipe, even if it’s really just warming up something already in the cupboards. I need to curb the impulse to just stop at Panera on my way home.

I need to be better about sharing my reading. Looking back over my 2014 books read (GoodReads is an organizing loving book reader’s dream), I didn’t do much other than put stars on books. Did I really have nothing to say?! Again, laziness and a slight addiction to getting back to a Netflix binge after finishing a book. This year, I will take the time to reflect after I finish a book. Even if it’s only two sentences worth! (See exhibit A, I finished The Palace Job on the plane rides back to Florida last week. It’s a good read but I don’t have tons to say just “A great caper read! I will admit some of the magic logic went over my head but it never took away from my enjoyment of the book. If you’re looking for a fun ensemble led by one very cool kickass heroine, check this one out!”)

I also have decided I need a more balanced reading diet. I am heavy on the fiction. Which isn’t a bad thing but my to-read list, sub-group non-fiction, is getting longer every year and I rarely touch it. This year, my goal is one fiction book, one non-fiction book and so forth. I am currently reading The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop which starts me off nicely on this goal!

I also want to explore more. I got out a bit last year (I have partially finished blog posts to prove it) and explored around my neck of the woods more but I could share that better. I haven’t even done Yelp reviews in forever. I like Tallahassee and it has some pretty neat places and things to do. I should let other people know about them! Added bonus, I would get off my couch since I want to read and cook, activity might be a good idea to add to the list…

Other than that, 2015 is a pretty blank year for me. I do turn 30 (the horrors!) so maybe other exciting things will come along. But mostly, I’d like do my nice cozy hobbies (cooking, reading, Netflix binging, protecting my bookshelves from a cat who thinks books are toys) and write about them again!

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A Visit to Maclay Gardens

It had been cold and gross in Tallahassee for about a week. I know, all my Northeastern readers are crying foul since apparently they are still in the dead of winter in April. I remember those winters. They are not fun. Which is another reason on my growing list I am very happy to call Florida home now. So, this past weekend when the weather finally decided to be sunny and 80 again, I decided to take myself off early and do some exploring at Maclay Gardens.

The House Path leading from the Front Gate

Now, if I’d done a little more homework before I went, I would have realized the state park, which the Gardens is a part of, was hosting a triathlon that morning. Though it was winding down by the time I arrived, it made for a crowded entrance to the park. However, once I was parked and into the Gardens area, I found it to be quiet and serene. I started out walking directly to the house at the tip of the Gardens. However, the House path travels alongside the lake so I took lots of detours to the lake edge, running into some turtles sunning themselves in the perfect morning sun.

Found some new friends lakeside

Once up at the house, a docent gave me a welcoming spiel of history surrounding the Maclay family, how they came into the area and how the house and its gardens were donated to the city. The house is half museum, half still kept decorated as the family had it when they lived there. The museum exhibits were a bit outdated and faded in places but full of good information about the family and the flowers I would see in the surrounding gardens.

The House itself is quite small; of course there was a separate house for the kids!

After the house, you enter the gardens proper. The path from the house leads directly to the Walled Garden which is when I wanted to move in. It was like something out of The Secret Garden. Though small, it embodied all you’d want to find in a walled garden: a fountain, lots of flowers, trees growing out and overhanging, benches, a secret corner. It was awesome; a childhood dream come to life. Stepping out of the garden, you find a long reflecting pool leading back down to the lake. When I visited, there was a young woman having pictures taken in an old fashioned costume along the reflecting pool.

From the Fountain in the Walled Garden to the Reflecting Pool and the Lake Beyond

Once you’re past the reflecting pool, the trails get a little more wild, more like nature trails than garden paths. I did run into another bricked path that ran along a pond for a little while but that faded out once I reached the azalea patches and the Oriental tree grove. It was also about this time I realized I should have brought bug spray…the mosquitos were out in full force. Following one path after another, I found my way out at the main entrance to the Gardens again.

The only bricked path beyond the Walled Garden runs along a pond

I did explore a little more on the Native Plants trail which lead me down towards the lake again but at this point the bugs won the battle and I decided to come back another day to explore more of those trails. Despite the mosquitos, I adored the Gardens. I could have explored a lot longer as paths just seemed to go in every direction. Though I don’t think you could get lost, you could definitely spend more than the few hours I did seeing what’s down each of them. Also, afterwards, treat yourself to a cupcake at Lucy and Leo’s Cupcakery as I did. It was, as luck would have it, on the way back to my apartment!

Walking and Reading

(Disclaimer: I don’t actually walk and read. I did try to perfect that back after I saw Beauty and the Beast and wanted nothing more to be Belle. Unfortunately, I lack the talent to walk any length of time reading and not hitting something or injuring myself. I reluctantly concluded I would never be as cool as Belle…)

I am feeling much more like my old self these days. I still have some tweaks of pain when I move in certain ways but overall, I am 100% better! Hopefully, this health scare will keep me on the right path from now on! While I am not quite feeling up to the zumba class a friend found for me, I am hoping to attend that soon! In the meantime, I continue my tour of Tallahassee’s parks with Tom Brown Park.

Lake Leon at Tom Brown Park

Tom Brown seems to be, if not the largest, one of the biggest parks in the city. It holds the annual 4th of July celebration for Tallahassee along with being host to ball fields, Mountain bike trails, a dog park and a 1.5 mile paved trail, Goose Pond Trail. I met up with a friend one night after work last week and wandered from Lake Leon onto the Goose Pond Trail. Since we lost the light quickly, we didn’t make it very far but we also stopped to enjoy watching the dogs at the dog park for a bit so I think we lost a bit of time there. But I liked what I saw of the park. I didn’t see much of the extensive ball fields the park has since the walking trail where we started isn’t close to them but the park was a busy place on a late Wednesday afternoon which is always a good sign. It was much busier than the park I’ve visited before but Tom Brown, as I said, it one of the largest parks in Tallahassee as well as more centrally located, right off Capital Circle. It also happens to be much closer to where I live so I hope to visit and walk regularly once we get over the spot of bad weather we’re having (it’s warm out but rainy and stormy for the next few days).

I also enjoyed having someone to walk with. I love my alone time, and I usually need more of that that the time I need to spend around people, but it’s also fun to just walk with a friend and talk about random things, about work and family and home. It’s also fun to take some time after work to unwind and complain a little if you need to. Normally, I don’t have that decompression time to talk something out if I need to and I appreciated having it along with walking and feeling better.

Next, I want to feel up to a high power zumba class but I think I’m still a week or two from that. I watched one of the Step Up movies over the weekend which meant I was dancing like an idiot around my apartment and yeah…not yet ready for zumba! So, I’ll keep walking. I also should work on getting over my fear of the treadmill so even when it’s gross out, I can get some walking in as pacing in my apartment just doesn’t do much. That said, I don’t think it’s the treadmill I’m afraid of so much as the odd people I run into at the small gym at my complex. Always nice people, just odd. I almost miss a large gym just for the anonymity they offer. I might need to think about investing in a gym again at some point but for now, baby steps!

In other news, I need to get back into my reading groove. When I feel crappy, I mostly want to lay on the couch like a slug and watch TV. But, since I’m feeling better, I’m getting back into reading.  I got a bit dragged down too by The Cookbook Collector. I really wanted to like this more than I did but in the end, I was sort of ambivalent to it. It made interesting use of the dot com bubble followed by the bust and 9/11 but I just never much cared for the characters. Confession (AND SPOILER ALERT): I thought good riddance when she killed two characters on one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers. How awful is that?! For one thing, you can see it coming so the shock value isn’t really there and two, one of the characters was awful, just completely unlikable and the other character I had nothing invested in. She could have never mentioned him again after she spent a chapter or two on him and I wouldn’t have ever wondered where he went. Luckily, I followed it up with a fun historical romance of a girl who runs away to join a ballet company in Brazil in 1912 and then Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens which is about a plane crash which lands the contestants of a teen beauty pangent stranded on a not so deserted island. I would tell you more but it’s a book you must read to believe and I highly recommend it with a caveat – you need to be someone who likes snarky comments with a Mel Brooks sense of humor (and as someone with family members who do not get that humor, I always like to warn people where it appears).

I just finished Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s love letter to books, The Shadow of the Wind. Seriously, I’d like to crawl into the library described in the first chapter and never come back out. After I finish one last library book, I need to start on the stack of books I’ve accumulated since Christmas as gifts and from book store sales. First up on the stack? A new Flavia de Luce novel (well, new to me, I’m a bit behind on the series). A little Flavia is always a good thing!

Walking a Park

Path at A.J. Henry Park, Tallahassee

My surgery went well; my recovery was a bit unexpected. Everyone made it sound a lot easier than it turned out to be for me. I handle pain well, thank goodness, but I was not up and about easily only a few days following my surgery. Tomorrow is 10 days after my surgery and today is really the first day I’ve felt mostly normal since they took my gallbladder out. I guess everyone is different but this one threw me for a loop a lot more than I was expecting. Slowly but surely, I am getting my feet back under me. One thing I’ve been trying to do is to keep moving. It does help me feel a little less like I am an invalid and also I feel a bit like I am walking off the pain. However, doing laps in my apartment gets old fast so I figure it’s time to start exploring the parks of Tallahassee.

I love walking; I always have. My favorite cities are completely walkable from one end of them to the other. I love not needing to drive or catch a bus or subway. I love taking in a walk whether it’s for pleasure or to get me from point A to Point B. I loathe running or really most other forms of exercise if I’m being honest but I adore walking. Sadly, Tallahassee isn’t exactly a walking city. I wouldn’t walk down my road if you paid me. It’s a charming road but has no sidewalk or shoulder to speak of. So, if I want to walk, I have to find a place to do so.

Tallahassee also has, thankfully, a plethora of parks to choose from. Being unimaginative yesterday, I just picked the park at the top of the list on the website. A.J. Henry Park is in the northeastern part of the city and, like anything else, took me about 20 minutes to find amongst the really nice houses I drove through. It is a fairly small park on the shores of a tiny lake. There is a short boardwalk along the lake’s edge, picnic areas which were host to two different birthday parties the day I visited, and then miles of trails through the woods. I wandered the woods for an hour, finding my way to a small ravine with a stream running through it. There were stairs down to the stream which I appreciated it as taking the steep looking trail wasn’t really something I felt up to just yet. It was a beautiful day for a walk in the woods and while I ran into a few other couples walking, I seemed to have the forest mostly to myself which is really the best way to enjoy a walk.

My only complaint was the trails were not marked very well. I found posts with maps that had either been destroyed or weather had rendered mostly illegible. There were color coded arrows which would have been helpful if I’d known what trail I’d been on to begin with. I suppose I could have pulled out my phone and gotten the map from the parks’ website but it didn’t fit my mood so I just wandered. I think I mostly stuck to the green trail but really, I have no idea. A bit more guidance would have been appreciated but I didn’t get lost so I suppose that would be considered a successful walk in the woods.

I hope to explore more of Tallahassee’s parks in the coming weeks as I try to keep active more. Sadly, most of this week will see me walking on the treadmill though as I’m returning to work. Tomorrow will most likely be a very long day but I’m looking forward to getting back onto my usual schedule and feeling like things are getting back to normal.

The Night Circus

From Goodreads

Yes, I am alive!

I’ve been busy rebuilding furniture in my apartment, getting a couch picked out and delivered and finding my way around Tallahassee without my GPS more and more. I love my new city as I get to know it more and more. I’ve also had my sister to visit twice and my parents arrive next week. I think that is the most I have seen family in the last three years so definitely a bonus to the new location!

As it may not surprise all of you, one of the first places I checked out was the public library, both the main branch and my local branch. I frequent the main branch the most because I literally drive by it every day going to and from work and also, it’s just a great building. My one gripe with it is how they have their paperbacks set up, on spinning displays that mean it often takes me a lot longer to find my guilty read of the week in the romance section than it should. Still, I like the airiness of the building and how it’s always teeming with people – families, students, people reading in various corners that you stumble upon at the end of the rows. For such a modern building, it’s cozy. My branch library is also always packed but less…welcoming in a way. I mostly stop in there to return books or pick up books I had sent there. If I want to browse, the main library is the place for me.

But I did not start this to review the Leon County Library system, though I have found it fabulous so far, I started it to notify everyone that must immediately drop what they are doing and read Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. This goes double for those of you who love fairy tales, read magical realism constantly and mostly wish they could live in a wondrous fictional world. The Night Circus is the place for you. This book got a lot of hype and book clubs have waxed poetic over it and normally that means I steer clear of that book for awhile but this one just sounded too much like a book I HAD to read, a book that was so up my alley it probably already had its own address there before I ever read it.

Celia and Marco have been playing a game most of their lives, preparing and waiting for the venue for the game to be announced. Finally, Le Cirque des Rêves opens and their lives will never be the same again. Both are talented illusionists, able to change the world we move in through the most fantastic of the circus’s tents. There is the Ice Garden, where everything is made of ice, the Labyrinth where doors lead into fantastical landscapes and the Wishing Tree where your wish is lit by the person’s wish before you. However, this game has consequences and as time goes on, the way it must end will not work for these star-crossed lovers or for those who call the Circus home. It is time to change how the game is played.

So, I want to crawl into this book and never come out. It is almost torture to know I can’t visit the Circus! And, I think it is the smells Morgenstern is careful to waft through her writing that make me long for it the most. I remember one of the first short stories I ever wrote for a class, my dad read it and handed back to me and said, “you’re missing smells.” And he was right, a smell is a memory and we associate smells with so much more than just the object that creates it. A smell immediately draws a reader into the world they are reading about. Morgenstern’s book is autumnal; caramel apples and popcorn, crisp cool nights where bonfire smoke drifts through the sky and hot cocoa warms your hands are the smells of the Circus and you are there now, aren’t you? There is magic in nights like that and the smells of the Circus are key to its inhabitants. When the smell is not right, that is when you know something has gone very wrong.

I love all the characters in this book, even the ones I am not supposed to like.  Celia is ethereal and yet as strong as steel, a dreamer who finds herself trapped in a game. Marco is more practical, a student who plays the game for her always. There are the twins, born the opening night of the Circus and affected by its magic in unforeseen ways. Hector, Celia’s despicable father who gets his just desserts in the end I think and yet I enjoy his oily appearances to torture his daughter, and Lafevre, the owner of the Circus who comes to be imprisoned by his own creation. They are tragic and yet wonderful and you are pulling for a happy ending so hard that you can’t read the text fast enough, hoping that Morgenstern is cleverer than you, that she has figured out a way to save this world she created from breaking apart though you yourself can’t see the way.

Needless to say, this book has made it onto my to-buy list, a feat few books do these days. My shelf space is precious but this book has more than earned its spot. As fall comes, and I have a feeling it will be a very odd fall for me (palm fronds don’t exactly turn red, orange and yellow and then fall off), I will pull this book out and wrap myself in its crisp autumn nights with bonfires and caramel popcorn and hot cocoa and visit the Circus once more.

Hello Tallahassee!

I made it! Another cross country move later, I have officially relocated to Tallahassee, Florida. I don’t have much else to report yet. I haven’t been here a week and I’m finding my way through my first week of work at a new (HUGE) university. On the plus side, I’ve only gotten lost once so far and that is because I managed to type the wrong address into my GPS after triple checking that it was right (go me!). I have managed to find a really tasty fish sandwich though at Barnacle Bill’s (the name caught the eye, the delicious food meant I’d actually go back).
My first impressions is that it rains a lot here. Even as I type this it is pouring down rain faster than I thought possible accompanied with thunder that is shaking the building. And yet I can see blue sky from where I sit…The old saying of if you don’t like the weather just wait 15 minutes is actually true here! The rest of the country, the portion I just drove through over four days, is in drought and I’m under flash flood warnings here. A bit of a different world. Also, the humidity, heavens have I missed you! Walking out of the library is like hitting a brick wall of heavy air and I love it. I don’t think my hair does but I rejoice. I’m certainly not cold around here. Unless I happen to be in a building because apparently if the A/C is on around here, it must be set permanently on the Arctic setting. So I wear a sweater all day and take it off to go outside. Talk about a reversal of the norm!
I am still getting settled in my apartment and it will take longer than planned. The moving company managed to get all of my belongings here and if it was in a box, it was mostly in one piece. If it was furniture however, it was apparently free game. I lost both my bookshelves and my desk so it will take me awhile to replace those as well as hunt down a new sofa for the apartment. My living room currently looks very sad. I also have all my Christmas boxes stuffed into a corner of my dining room as I have to get plastic bins for them before I can move them out into my storage closet off the patio. BUT I have my own washer and dryer and a walk in closet big enough to be a guest room if I wanted. It certainly blows Harry Potter’s Cupboard Under the Stairs out of the water. There is also a pool though I haven’t been in the apartment (and without rain) long enough to do more than run up and take a picture of it. Even when I did that the storm clouds were rolling in.
I am hoping this weekend to get out and explore. I know I want to check out the movie theater (I found one closer to my apartment than I thought!) and maybe head up to see the other mall in town where Barnes & Noble’s lives. I also need to try to dig up the second hand bookstore in this town as well as the library branch down on my side of town. As I won’t have cable/internet installed until the 18th, I have to find some way to entertain myself!