Monday, December 29, 2014

My Best Books of 2014

I read a lot.

And each year I've been trying to read a little more.

This year my goal was 68 books, one more than I read last year.



I surpassed it!!

I've read 72 books this year. I might be able to squeeze in one more that I'm working on to make 73.

I've made a habit of sharing my favorites each year here on this blog, so the tradition continues.



In the past, I've been really disappointed in some of what I've read, so I did a little more homework in scouting out books that had been highly regarded this year. I figured if the year was going to start out right, it needed to start with some great reads that inspired me to read more. 

I rated 6 books with 5 stars this year...and here they are!

Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind- This book is simply incredible, perhaps I'm affected more by this story as a teacher, but my dad found me crying on the couch as I read this book over the summer. A young girl, battling cerebral palsy, discovers the joy of communication after a lifetime of keeping her thoughts to herself. 

Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project- A man with Asperger's Syndrome is on the hunt for a wife. Hysterically neurotic. I loved it. 

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro- Maybe I love this book because I'm obsessed with Neal Caffrey and White Collar, a show on the USA Network (I can't believe this show just ended!!!!), but there's something about the ability to forge the artwork of renowned artists and pass it off as the real thing. This story had me hooked. 

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes- Moyes has been writing and publishing novels for years, but her real explosion on to the scene happened with Me Before You in 2012. Her recent novels are getting pretty big press and I can see why. Easy to read chick lit that grabs you and entices you to want more each time you read. If you haven't picked up a Moyes novel yet, you most definitely should! I haven't gotten to The Girl You Left Behind yet, but it's on my list for 2015!

Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park- This is probably my favorite book of the year and I've been reading everything by Rowell that I can get my hands on in recent months. Eleanor & Park is the sweetest young adult love story. Run to the nearest store and get your hands on a copy. 

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult- I had read a book of Picoult's in the past and didn't care for it, so I'd always avoided her books. But in my search for highly rated books, I came across this. It was, hands down, amazing. Now I'm having to rethink my ban on Picoult and add a few more of her books to my 'want to read' list. 

And, one honorable mention to hand out...I didn't give this book 5 stars, but it has lingered in my mind the entire year. It was the first book I read in 2014. I despised it initially, hence the rating of only 4 stars, but by the end it was one of my favorites.

 The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert- This was a selection for our book club in January and it was well received by our group. You'll learn more than you ever wanted to know about moss and many other plant species (the research for this book must have been soooooo boring) but the main character, Alma, will find a place deep in your heart. 
You can follow what I'm reading on Goodreads or Shelfari. I use the Shelfari widget on the right sidebar as well, which links to my page. (Even though more people seem to use Goodreads these days, I've always preferred the look of Shelfari.)

Need a good book for 2015? I hope you'll choose one of my favorites! You can also check out the Goodreads recent winners for 2014 as a good place to start!

Have a recommendation for me? Leave it in the comments! I'd love to hear your ideas!
Wishing each of you a very happy and healthy 2015!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Milan's Unique Advent Calendar

Advent marks the beginning of the Christmas season for Christian churches. In Latin, the word advent means arrival or coming and refers to the anticipation of Christ's birth. Germans began lighting candles each night in anticipation of Advent, and the tradition translated into various forms, including calendars to mark the days leading up to Christmas. (source)

the Duomo and the city's tree

Milan has a unique way of celebrating this holiday season by creating a musical Advent calendar in Piazza Duomo.

Beginning December 1, each night at 6 pm, a musician stands at the window of municipal offices. Every night an additional musician stands at a window. They play Christmas music for 30 minutes for the crowds in Piazza Duomo to enjoy.

I went on December 12th, so there were 12 musicians to enjoy.

The windows are numbered from 1-24, for each day in December leading up to Christmas.

Greetings hang in many languages.

Here's a little taste of what you can go and experience.

video

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Travel Map

In the last few weeks, I've seen this travel map floating around Facebook a bit and today I decided to build my own.


Carrie’s Travel Map
Carrie has been to: Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Now you can also build a US travel map. I've clearly got some work to do in the US.


Carrie has been to 19 US States
Carrie has been to: California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thanksgiving in London, 2014

When planning for our short Thanksgiving break this year, I decided to head to London. I hadn't been in about a year and a half and I simply love the city. Elizabeth, who was my travel buddy in Iceland this summer, offered to let me stay with her now that she's living in a London suburb.

the only cityscape picture I took

I had a few things I wanted to do while in London, including catching at least one musical...and resisting the urge to see Wicked for the 7th time. So, instead, I bought a ticket to The Book of Mormon, which I've always heard is fantastic. It definitely lived up to the hype. It was so good, extremely clever,  hysterically funny, and a little raunchy. But, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Currently, the two leads are both American and one trained at CCM, which is in my hometown of Cincinnati.

I also took time to venture out of the city to the Warner Brothers Studios where they've set up The World of Harry Potter. A lot of filming was completed in the studios here and they have piles of costumes and sets for you to look at first hand. You can walk down Diagon Alley, drink Butterbeer, and green screen yourself flying on a broomstick around Hogwarts. I really liked the green screen technology they showed, comparing the green screen version to the film version we're used to seeing. They also have the masks and costumes for all the creatures, like the Gringotts goblins and it was really cool to be able to see the masks and listen to the costume and makeup artists talk about their work on a television screen hanging above.

Dumbledore's costume on display in the Great Hall

Right now, everything is themed as "Hogwarts in the Snow", with winter and holiday decorations.

Costumes and props from the Yule Ball

Wigs for Bellatrix Lestrange and Dumbledore

Identical outfits for Harry, labeled with where and when they were needed

the green screen version of the Invisibility Cloak

one of only three places in the world to try butterbeer...

Several of the goblin masks

Hogwarts- this is the model used for all the exterior castle shots

Having lived in Europe for over three years now (how is this possible?) I have developed a few friends in various places and London is home to several of them. I met up with a friend from Milan for coffee, two former ASM teachers for dinner and drinks, and a group of ADEs (Apple Distinguished Educators) who I met in Cork, Ireland in 2013.

catching up with Zach and Elisa

Graeme, Marc and Lauren and I met in Ireland in 2013
It's hard to believe that the holidays are just around the corner. Eight work days to go and I'll be on a plane 'across the pond.' Can't wait to see all my Savannah friends! 

Are you a Harry Potter fan? You should check out the studios next time you're in London. You can book tickets in advance (a must) on the site linked above and book a convenient, but expensive, bus ride there as well at this link.

You can see the rest of my pics from my day with Harry here

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Best Books of 2014

I read a lot.

And each year I've been trying to read a little more.

This year my goal was 68 books, one more than I read last year.



I surpassed it!!

I've read 72 books this year. I might be able to squeeze in one more that I'm working on to make 73.

I've made a habit of sharing my favorites each year here on this blog, so the tradition continues.



In the past, I've been really disappointed in some of what I've read, so I did a little more homework in scouting out books that had been highly regarded this year. I figured if the year was going to start out right, it needed to start with some great reads that inspired me to read more. 

I rated 6 books with 5 stars this year...and here they are!

Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind- This book is simply incredible, perhaps I'm affected more by this story as a teacher, but my dad found me crying on the couch as I read this book over the summer. A young girl, battling cerebral palsy, discovers the joy of communication after a lifetime of keeping her thoughts to herself. 

Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project- A man with Asperger's Syndrome is on the hunt for a wife. Hysterically neurotic. I loved it. 

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro- Maybe I love this book because I'm obsessed with Neal Caffrey and White Collar, a show on the USA Network (I can't believe this show just ended!!!!), but there's something about the ability to forge the artwork of renowned artists and pass it off as the real thing. This story had me hooked. 

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes- Moyes has been writing and publishing novels for years, but her real explosion on to the scene happened with Me Before You in 2012. Her recent novels are getting pretty big press and I can see why. Easy to read chick lit that grabs you and entices you to want more each time you read. If you haven't picked up a Moyes novel yet, you most definitely should! I haven't gotten to The Girl You Left Behind yet, but it's on my list for 2015!

Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park- This is probably my favorite book of the year and I've been reading everything by Rowell that I can get my hands on in recent months. Eleanor & Park is the sweetest young adult love story. Run to the nearest store and get your hands on a copy. 

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult- I had read a book of Picoult's in the past and didn't care for it, so I'd always avoided her books. But in my search for highly rated books, I came across this. It was, hands down, amazing. Now I'm having to rethink my ban on Picoult and add a few more of her books to my 'want to read' list. 

And, one honorable mention to hand out...I didn't give this book 5 stars, but it has lingered in my mind the entire year. It was the first book I read in 2014. I despised it initially, hence the rating of only 4 stars, but by the end it was one of my favorites.

 The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert- This was a selection for our book club in January and it was well received by our group. You'll learn more than you ever wanted to know about moss and many other plant species (the research for this book must have been soooooo boring) but the main character, Alma, will find a place deep in your heart. 
You can follow what I'm reading on Goodreads or Shelfari. I use the Shelfari widget on the right sidebar as well, which links to my page. (Even though more people seem to use Goodreads these days, I've always preferred the look of Shelfari.)

Need a good book for 2015? I hope you'll choose one of my favorites! You can also check out the Goodreads recent winners for 2014 as a good place to start!

Have a recommendation for me? Leave it in the comments! I'd love to hear your ideas!
Wishing each of you a very happy and healthy 2015!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Milan's Unique Advent Calendar

Advent marks the beginning of the Christmas season for Christian churches. In Latin, the word advent means arrival or coming and refers to the anticipation of Christ's birth. Germans began lighting candles each night in anticipation of Advent, and the tradition translated into various forms, including calendars to mark the days leading up to Christmas. (source)

the Duomo and the city's tree

Milan has a unique way of celebrating this holiday season by creating a musical Advent calendar in Piazza Duomo.

Beginning December 1, each night at 6 pm, a musician stands at the window of municipal offices. Every night an additional musician stands at a window. They play Christmas music for 30 minutes for the crowds in Piazza Duomo to enjoy.

I went on December 12th, so there were 12 musicians to enjoy.

The windows are numbered from 1-24, for each day in December leading up to Christmas.

Greetings hang in many languages.

Here's a little taste of what you can go and experience.

video

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Travel Map

In the last few weeks, I've seen this travel map floating around Facebook a bit and today I decided to build my own.


Carrie’s Travel Map
Carrie has been to: Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Now you can also build a US travel map. I've clearly got some work to do in the US.


Carrie has been to 19 US States
Carrie has been to: California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thanksgiving in London, 2014

When planning for our short Thanksgiving break this year, I decided to head to London. I hadn't been in about a year and a half and I simply love the city. Elizabeth, who was my travel buddy in Iceland this summer, offered to let me stay with her now that she's living in a London suburb.

the only cityscape picture I took

I had a few things I wanted to do while in London, including catching at least one musical...and resisting the urge to see Wicked for the 7th time. So, instead, I bought a ticket to The Book of Mormon, which I've always heard is fantastic. It definitely lived up to the hype. It was so good, extremely clever,  hysterically funny, and a little raunchy. But, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Currently, the two leads are both American and one trained at CCM, which is in my hometown of Cincinnati.

I also took time to venture out of the city to the Warner Brothers Studios where they've set up The World of Harry Potter. A lot of filming was completed in the studios here and they have piles of costumes and sets for you to look at first hand. You can walk down Diagon Alley, drink Butterbeer, and green screen yourself flying on a broomstick around Hogwarts. I really liked the green screen technology they showed, comparing the green screen version to the film version we're used to seeing. They also have the masks and costumes for all the creatures, like the Gringotts goblins and it was really cool to be able to see the masks and listen to the costume and makeup artists talk about their work on a television screen hanging above.

Dumbledore's costume on display in the Great Hall

Right now, everything is themed as "Hogwarts in the Snow", with winter and holiday decorations.

Costumes and props from the Yule Ball

Wigs for Bellatrix Lestrange and Dumbledore

Identical outfits for Harry, labeled with where and when they were needed

the green screen version of the Invisibility Cloak

one of only three places in the world to try butterbeer...

Several of the goblin masks

Hogwarts- this is the model used for all the exterior castle shots

Having lived in Europe for over three years now (how is this possible?) I have developed a few friends in various places and London is home to several of them. I met up with a friend from Milan for coffee, two former ASM teachers for dinner and drinks, and a group of ADEs (Apple Distinguished Educators) who I met in Cork, Ireland in 2013.

catching up with Zach and Elisa

Graeme, Marc and Lauren and I met in Ireland in 2013
It's hard to believe that the holidays are just around the corner. Eight work days to go and I'll be on a plane 'across the pond.' Can't wait to see all my Savannah friends! 

Are you a Harry Potter fan? You should check out the studios next time you're in London. You can book tickets in advance (a must) on the site linked above and book a convenient, but expensive, bus ride there as well at this link.

You can see the rest of my pics from my day with Harry here