Joshua Tree National Park

Perks of working at a school definitely include Spring Break. We cashed in some airline miles we'd been saving up and made our way to California. It was a total blast and such a good compromise for a trip. We spent half of our time at Joshua Tree and half of our time in Los Angeles getting to explore. It's funny because I really wanted time in a new city but ended up loving our time in Joshua Tree the best. 

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Time in Joshua Tree was definitely not without its kinks. We weren't able to get to the park until after 5 that Monday only to find the "ALL CAMP SITES FULL" sign. Luckily there are several private campsites nearby and we were able to find a spot on the first go. We packed up the next morning and drove around several of the sites until we found the nicest Canadian family leaving and grabbed their spot at Jumbo Rocks. Spring Break at the parks is no joke and it was SUCH a great feeling to grab a spot actually IN the park since most of it is first come first serve. 

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Joshua Tree is so beautiful in the strangest and most unique way. It was my first real time to go to the desert and it was INCREDIBLE. Also, the Cholla Cactus Garden is insanely beautiful. Essentially, scientists don't understand why they exist or how they've survived to have a relationship with nature in the desert. They don't "appear" to be valuable but they've become an integral part of the ecosystem. TAKE THAT, WORLD. Something doesn't have to be beautiful to have worth. It doesn't have to be perfect to have value. If that's not a beautiful lesson, I don't know what is 

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10/10 would recommend. We had such a blast exploring new territory and appreciating scenery that was literally unlike anything else we'd ever seen before. Joshua Tree, I love ya!

For the Love of Food (and other ramblings)

I get pretty geeky about food as it is but the release of Andrea Bremis' cookbook may have thrown me over the edge.  I have been looking forward to this release for MONTHS. Yes, literally months - ask my husband. 

I love her passion and the way she makes it so accessible. She creates the most beautiful and nourishing recipes and I'd be lying if I said I weren't a little obsessed. It's definitely been a source of inspiration to think outside the box and try new things. Her cookbook released today and it was so, so worth the wait. It's so beautiful and I can't wait to try some of the new recipes. 

The journey of loving good, whole food has been a somewhat winding one. In the last two years I've learned that I really, really love vegetables and eating things that have ingredients I can pronounce. I still google all the time (what is kohlrabi? how do you peel a rutabaga?) but it has been the most fun to learn about foods that seem completely foreign and yet are some of the most wholesome things I can be putting in my body. We definitely still eat some junk and I definitely still love ice cream. But we are learning to ask more questions and choose our food more thoughtfully. We purchased a CSA from a local farm and will get our first box in May. We'll be getting weekly produce along with eggs and flowers from a farm that is 2.3 miles away from our house (yes, I mapped it). Not only that, the farm donates half of their production to fight food insecurity in NWA. I'm convinced Fayetteville might be one of the coolest places in the world.

In the words of Michael Pollan, "Shake the hand that feeds you." I'm so ready.

 

 

Books of 2016

2016 was equal parts wonderful and hard, full and lonely. I finished grad school, we decided to stick around Fay town, and I started my first "real" job (!!). Through it all, lots of reading. 

Books of the year originally started in 2013 as a way to read more and keep myself accountable to something I loved doing. The idea was to read the number of books that correlated with how old I was that year. 21 books for my year of being 21, etc. You can read about previous years here and here

I've always been passionate about books and reading. Now more than ever, I see the importance in it. Reading teaches us to take on another's perspective, to agree or disagree. To engage in a story that's different than our own. Reading helps with that connection and I think it helps us build bridges in ways that most other things can't. And in a life that's so saturated with technology and ads and quick fixes, a physical book slows me down. For that, I'm grateful.

I've kept up my annual reading challenge but decided to bump up my goal to 40 books this year. 

 

I read several classics and finally worked my way through a few books that had been sitting on the shelf FOREVER. I'm slowly purging books and only keeping ones that I love! I still love thrifting books but I find the books I'm most excited to read most often come from the library.

All of that said, my 2016 list! In order they were read..

1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
2. French Women Don't Get Fat
3. The Interestings
4. The Alchemist
5. The Secret Garden
6. Scary Close
7. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
8. When Breath Becomes Air
9. The Things We Keep
10. The Kitchen House
11. Still Alice
12. For the Love
13. The Color Purple
14. Me Before You
15. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
16. The Nightingale
17. The Shootist
18. Two Across
19. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
20. Carry On, Warrior
21. The Language of Flowers
22. Olive Kitteridge
23. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
24. My Berlin Kitchen
25. The Dinner
26. The Westing Game
27. Number the Stars
28. But You Did Not Come Back
29. The Nest
30. The Dirty Life
31. The Boston Girl
32. A Man Called Ove
33. Calling Me Home
34. The Bell Jar
35. A Little Life
36. The Other Wes Moore
37. The Girls
38. The Astronaut Wives Club
39. Homegoing
40. Daring Greatly
41. Present Over Perfect
42. The Underground Railroad
43. Into Thin Air
44. News of the World

Favorites: Homegoing, The Nightingale, Calling Me Home. GIMME ALL THE HISTORICAL FICTION. 

Honorable Mention: A Little Life (still reeling from this book), The Underground Railroad, The Kitchen House

2016 was a solid year for reading and I'm already eager to get rolling on my 2017 booklist. Did you read any really great books this year? Will you set a reading goal for next year? Find me on goodreads and let's be friends!

Happy reading!