Wonderland Reads | January 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

Hey, dear readers! :)

I hope you guys are doing well and had a wonderful weekend. Today, before the month is out, I want to share what I read in January. This year, I wanted to make a point to read more this year because 1) I missed reading a bunch, and 2) I'm a firm believer that reading can help you be a better writer.

But I digress. Let's get to the books!

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

I’d been wanting to get into this book for awhile, seeing as it’s a quintessential classic sci-fi novel, and I’m actually really glad I did. The book is rich with detail and character development - especially for Ender, the protagonist.

My only gripe with this book is that the pacing was really, really slow at times. However, I’m not sure that I would feel that way if I hadn’t seen the movie.

I personally think the movie is great. The plot was handled very well on-screen, especially the ending (which I won’t spoil for you). But they do cut out a lot. As in, two subplots. So keep that in mind if you do decide to watch before you read, or vice versa.

Either way, I did enjoy this book, and I give it four planets out of five.

This is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer

After reading such a heavy book as Ender’s Game, I was in the mood for something light and fluffy. Enter This is My Brain on Boys.

I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but I discovered this book via an Instagram account, and the title intrigued me. So, I purchased this book for my Kindle app and got to reading.

It’s about a girl named Addie who is attempting to prove with science that love can happen and sparks can fly when two people are in dangerous situations. So, she conducts experiments, and she may or may not have a crush on one of her subjects. Stuff gets complicated and comedy and high school drama ensues. 

While this story is definitely more on the lighter side - with some plot holes - it was a cute little vacation read. I love romantic comedies anyway, and that’s what this book read more like. The characters were not only bearable on the page, but also enjoyable. Addie is a great protagonist, her friends Tess and Ed are a great supporting cast, and Kris is a great love interest with a surprisingly well-developed backstory.

I give This is My Brain on Boys four science labs out of five.

What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments! :) 

Afraid of Asking

Monday, January 23, 2017

I consider prayer to be one of the most unique and incredible parts of my faith in God. And it’s something I’ve learned not to take for granted.

But there’s something I’ve realized recently: that I shouldn’t be afraid of asking.

When I pray, I try to remember to pray for others first before my own requests. And I definitely want to pray for others' needs, whether I tell them I will or not. But for the longest time, I was afraid that I was being extremely selfish when I pray for any needs or worries that I have.

Dear reader, after studying this, I found that my worries are totally misplaced.

Let me show you what I mean with the following verses:

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” - James 1:5

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” - 1 Peter 5:6-7 (emphasis added)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” - Philippians 4:6

Do any of those verses above discourage asking God for your needs? I certainly don’t see that being the case. God wants us to talk to Him and bring Him our personal needs and concerns as well as our praises and requests on others’ behalf. He wants us to talk to Him, period, because He loves us.

And that’s why I’m not afraid of asking. :)

Palm Springs, California | A Story in Instagrams & More

Monday, January 16, 2017

Last week, my family and I went on a trip to Palm Springs, California.

Now, I’ve been there before, and I absolutely fell in love with it on my first visit. Two years later, Mom and I got to bring Dad, and it was a fun time all around.

So, here is a little story of our trip, told in Instagrams.

The Cabazon Dinosaurs

These guys are the BEST.

I discovered these statues via Pinterest a couple of years ago. They are dinosaurs that are - quite hilariously - situated behind a truck stop off the interstate. They were originally plaster-white, so it’s nice that they were painted over and given glowing eyes. I named the Brontosaurus Littlefoot (of course!) and I “ran” from the T-Rex.

If you like goofy/awesome photo ops, I highly recommend visiting these huge dinosaurs.

King’s Highway + Ace Hotel

Where we stayed is one of my favorite hotels of all time: the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. Great retro/hipster atmosphere, great food, great smoothies!

(Also, there was a turntable in my hotel room. I played copious amounts of Loverboy, and it was amazing.)

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Something that Mom and I had meant to do was go up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It goes up to San Jacinto Peak, about 11,000 feet above sea level. 

Due to that altitude, there’s usually some or a lot of snow. The snow the day we went was patchy, but it was windy and it was cold. It was still a lot of fun, though! (Nothing beats eating nachos at 11,000 feet. 😉)

Pioneertown, California

We made a day of going to Joshua Tree National Park (more on that in a little bit), but in searching for a little diner called Pappy and Harriet’s (which wound up being closed the day we visited), we came across and explored Pioneertown.

This place was adorable. If you like Westerns - or at least “An American Tail” - Pioneertown is for you.

Joshua Tree

This place is the coolest.

Joshua Tree National Park is filled with unique rocks and trees and mountains unlike any national park I’d ever seen before. It’s an incredible display of God’s creation.

Also, I climbed on some rocks. Of course.

This was the best trip ever with my family.
Thank you so much for reading! :)

Do's and Don'ts of Carry-On Luggage

Monday, January 9, 2017

Last weekend, I posted a Do’s and Don’t’s list for packing checked luggage for plane travel. Today, I wanted to continue those thoughts with carry-on luggage. This is my personal favorite way to pack, and I can’t recommend it enough to my friends who travel.

But before we get to those do’s and don’ts, let’s answer the question: What is a carry-on bag?

Airlines allow you to carry two bags onto a plane: one carry-on item and one personal item. Your personal item is usually your purse, a backpack, or a tote bag of some kind. Your carry-on item is usually a smaller piece of luggage that fits under specific dimensions to fit in the overhead compartment on planes or under the seat in front of you. When you purchase luggage, the suitcase you buy should fit those specifications, but it’s always a good idea to check your airline’s policies online if you’re unsure. 

All this being said, let’s get to the lists.

  • Consider traveling solely via carry-on luggage. In my opinion, the pros far outweigh the cons; you may have to lug more bags around, but you eliminate the risk of having your luggage lost or stolen under an airline’s watch, and you don’t have to wait around for baggage claim before you start adventuring.
  • Pack efficiently to save space. Roll your clothes up. Use packing cubes. Store your shoes in separate bags. Pack a laundry bag. Every inch of space you get counts in your carry-on bag.
  • Remember to put ALL of your liquids in quart-sized bags, and have them within easy reach for security. You don’t want to have to waste time standing in line while a TSA officer rummages through your bag looking for the bottle of water you left in your bag by accident.
  • Pack an extra outfit and your toiletries in your carry-on in case of flight delays or cancellations. You don’t want to be stranded in the airport without a change of clothes, or at least your toothbrush. It’s better not to rely on airport general stores for those things, especially if you fly in late at night. (But if you have your luggage all in carry-on bags, this won’t be an issue.)
  • Consider checking your carry-on during your return home, especially if your souvenirs are checked-bag only (don’t let the amazing jam you bought for your mom get confiscated!).

  • Pack things that aren’t allowed in your carry-on, such as aerosols. Again, this will save so much time going through security.
  • Leave your carry-on unattended. One risk that you do run is that your bag could be stolen from under you. Be responsible. Keep an eye on your bags, and take them with you wherever you go, especially if you don’t have a buddy traveling with you, even to airport restaurants (which, thankfully, have ample space for you to keep your bag beside you while you eat).
  • Overpack. This should be a little bit easier to avoid in a carry-on since you have less space, but definitely make sure that you are aware of how much you are packing, especially if you plan on bringing souvenirs back.

Have you ever tried packing entirely by carry-on? Is it something you'd like to do on your next trip? Let me know in the comments! :)

Three Years of [S]iW

Saturday, January 7, 2017

I have been writing on this blog for three years as of today.



And I've been blogging through some pretty important parts of my life:
  • I traversed the last semester of my senior year of college.
  • I began editing for the magazine I now write and work for full-time while still balancing senior year stuff.
  • I graduated college!
  • I entered the workforce for the first time.
  • I got my first car.
  • I traveled to quite a few places, from California to Italy to the UK to Hawaii.
  • My blog disappeared, then returned due to my school email being deleted. But never fear, my blog is here to stay!
  • I started a full-time job that I truly love, and this month, it’s been one year since I’ve started that job. (In addition, I’ve spent 2 (going on 3) years writing for our magazine!)
  • I’ve been writing. A lot.

The adventures are just beginning…and you bet I’m going to be blogging it.

I know that I haven’t always been active on this blog - as adulting takes a LOT of time, work-wise and socially - but this year, I want to bring you guys along with me on whatever adventures I take and whatever passions I pursue. This blog has been a wonderful way for me to share my thoughts over the past three years, and I hope to continue sharing in the years to come as much as I possibly can. I’m looking forward to where God leads me during this new year of blogging.

Thank you so much for reading, whether you’ve been reading since the beginning or if this is the first post you’ve read of mine.

Thank you, and I love you. :)

Do's and Don'ts of Checked Luggage

Friday, January 6, 2017

I will be traveling soon. And as such, I've been thinking about what I've been wanting to pack.

While I usually pack via carry-on luggage only, there are times when I do need to pack a checked bag. A checked bag has tons of advantages: you can usually pack more, you have the convenience of not having to lug a heavy bag from terminal to terminal, and you usually don't have to bother with overhead compartments on planes.

All this being said, there are things you should consider when you pack checked luggage.

  • Purchase a suitcase that’s unique. Black suitcases are lost so much easier than, say, a powder blue one. Plus, if you do lose your luggage, you will have to describe your bag to airport employees, and if you just say that it’s a “black bag,” they will have to search a sea of black bags to find yours. At the very least, tie a ribbon or use a unique/colorful luggage tag to stand out from the crowd, and take a picture of your bag and save it to your phone so you can show the TSA employees your bag in case it does get lost or delayed.
  • Purchase a suitcase with four wheels. Spinners are the best for getting across airports in a hurry, and it’s easier on your arms to not have to drag a suitcase behind you for long distances.
  • Pack your checked bag with goodies not suitable for your carry-on, like aerosols (hairspray, shaving cream, and the like), food, etc.
  • On that note, make sure all of your liquids are in zip-lock bags. It doesn’t matter what size the bags are for your checked bag, but having them in separate bags keeps things from getting messy if your toiletries or makeup or hair products happen to explode or otherwise leak due to the altitude pressure while flying.
  • Pack your checked bag with a photocopy of your passport and driver’s license, even if you’re traveling domestically. Better safe than sorry.
  • Pack your checked bag as efficiently as you can. Use packing cubes to save space while packing clothes, place your shoes in separate bags (I like foldable fabric tote bags), and pack a separate empty bag for your laundry.
  • Fold a duffel bag into your checked baggage for extra souvenirs if you can. Some airlines will allow you to check at least one bag for free, but check your airline’s policies on checked bags if this is something you’re considering doing.

  • Overpack. I know it’s easier said than done, but you will be thankful that you saved space when you bring souvenirs back and/or do extra clothes shopping while at your destination.
  • Pack too large of a bag for or pack a bag that doesn’t fit your circumstances. Does your hotel have an elevator? If not, you might not want to pack a suitcase half your height. Will you be dragging your suitcase across cobblestone roads or long stretches of sidewalk? If so, it would be best to carry a durable suitcase with wheels as opposed to hauling a heavy duffel bag.
  • Pack all of your valuables in your checked bag. Save your electronics, chargers, and other items important to you for your carry-on, because you never know if your checked bag will get lost or stolen.
  • Forget to set aside an extra outfit for your carry-on. See previous point.
  • Pack super-expensive jewelry, unless you plan to wear it daily. Ex: engagement/wedding rings (and even then, an inexpensive band may be your best bet depending on the country you fly into).

Do you prefer to travel via carry-on only? Or do you like checking your bag the best? Let me know in the comments! :)

Mondays are for Music: The Music I Loved in 2016

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy 2017, everyone! :)

This past year was a good one, but I especially loved this year for music. I fell in love with record playing, I re-fell in love with a longtime favorite band, and I discovered some new gems that I'm sure I'll be playing for years to come.

For today's roundup, I thought I'd separate it into three categories: Favorite Artist, Favorite Album, and Top 3 Favorite Songs of 2016.

Favorite Artist: Bastille

I've loved this band since college, but for whatever reason, I couldn't get enough of their music this past year. I can't tell y'all how many times I played through their two albums on vinyl, and I also can't tell you how many times I've played their music while driving. I'm excited to see what they do in the future!

(For a more in-depth look at this band/a quick starter guide to their work, I'd like to direct you to this post.)

Favorite Album: "Wild World" by Bastille

See above for the specific reasons why, but I loved Bastille's latest album, especially on record. 

Top 3 Favorite Songs

This was a hard call, but these are the songs I loved the most in 2016.
  1. "The Greatest" by Sia
  2. "Shelter" by Porter Robinson & Madeon
  3. "Send Them Off!" by Bastille
What were your favorite songs in 2016? Let me know in the comments! :)