Monday, February 20, 2017

Excursions are Booked - Alaskan Cruise Countdown Begins!

To say I am excited about our summer cruise to Alaska is an understatement.  Those who knew me when I was a child, heard me chatter incessantly about visiting Alaska and seeing the snow and mountains.  I used to study maps.  MAPS!  If Google Earth would have been around during my obsessive map phase, you would have never gotten me off the computer.  I digress.  Finally, approaching the age of 40, I am making it happen.  The Dunlop family is going on a Disney Cruise! 

Our cruise is 7 nights with a round trip route out of Vancouver, Canada.  Our trip begins in early June right after the kids get out of school for the summer.  We literally fly out the first day of summer break.  We have three stops on our cruise: Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

I did some research this week and finally decided on our shore excursions.  I planned what I wanted to do, as no one else in the family had an opinion.  (They usually leave all the planning to me, and it usually ends up a win-win for everybody!)  I pretty much used trip advisor to research the most popular things to do at each stop.  I did not book through the cruise for a couple of different reasons.  One, it is usually cheaper to book directly with the travel company itself and two, this way I can read customer reviews and make sure what I purchase is well recommended. 

First stop:  Skagway, Alaska.  I decided on a train ride/bus tour up to Lake Bennett, British Columbia through Chilkoot Charters & Tours.  They will pick us up at the cruise dock and take us to the train station which is a 28 mile ride up to Fraser, BC.  Once we get to Fraser we then have to go through immigration and customs.  We will board a different train which will take us up to Lake Bennett.  Once in Lake Bennett, we get to have lunch and visit a dog musher camp.  We get to pet the husky puppies.  On the way back to the cruise ship, we take a tour bus and get to stop at several scenic photo op places.  The whole trip is supposed to take about 8 hours.  It's going to be a long day, but so worth it.

Second stop:  Juneau, Alaska.  For Juneau, the big attraction is the Mendenhall Glacier.  Mendenhall Glacier is a part of Tongass National Forest and has a visitors center, as well as many different walking trails.  I booked a city and glacier combo tour with Juneau Tours.  We start out with a bus tour of downtown Juneau and then head up to Mendenhall Glacier.  We can stay for 45 minutes and then return with the bus, or we can stay as long as we like and then take one of the shuttles back to the cruise ship when we are ready.  The shuttles leave every 30 minutes and are included as part of the tour.

Third stop:  Ketchikan, Alaska.  Our third stop is the one I am most excited about.  I decided to splurge and book a Misty Fjords Flightseeing Tour with Taquan Air.  For this excursion we get to go up in a little float plane and fly over the wilderness and view waterfalls, wildlife and even land in the middle of the fjord.  This is going to be amazing!!!

We also have one full day in Vancouver before we get on the cruise.  I haven't planned out what we might do there.  I'll have to figure that out at some point.  104 days and counting!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: Beautiful Player

Title: Beautiful Player
Author: Christina Lauren
Publishing Date: 2013
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: B
Sensuality: Smokin' Hot
Book Disclosure: I purchased an ebook.

Beautiful Player is the third book in Christina Lauren's Beautiful series.  Hanna Bergstrom has been spending too much time in the lab and not enough time being a young twenty something.  Her brother wants to make sure that she has an appropriate balance in her life between school and a social life.  He insists that she call up his best friend Will Sumner since they both live in the city, and meet some people and have fun.  Once upon a time Hanna had a crush on Will, her older brother's bad boy friend.  It's been years since she has seen him and once they start hanging out, it turns out that attraction Hanna had as a teenager is still there, only it's not one-sided any longer.

I really enjoy reading Christina Lauren's books.  Beautiful Player was no exception.  If you have enjoyed other Christina Lauren books, then I think you will enjoy this one too.  In this book, I really liked Hanna.  She is the type of person I could see myself wanting to be friends with and hang out together.  She is very direct and forthright in her behavior.  She is a "what you see is what you get" type of person.  Will finds this very intriguing as he has "dated" a lot of different women and they tended to be more superficial.  He finds Hanna refreshing.  It's obvious from the beginning that Will is attracted to Hanna, but she is clueless about reading the cues.  This leads to some misunderstandings between them.

I would say that much of the relationship between Will and Hanna is driven by their physical attraction to each other.  There is a lot of focus on sex in this book.  The good news is that I felt that the author used the sex scenes to build Will and Hanna's relationship.  But after a while it was like, here we go again.  Fortunately, Christina Lauren uses a lot of dialog to tell the story, rather than mental lusting.  There is some of that going on, but not so much that it detracts from the story.  All in all, I would give this a thumbs up.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Week 6: Getting Back on Track!

Let me tell you, after the January Report Card post, I felt like I had let myself down.  Having written about my progress, or lack there of, has helped to motivate me this week.  I definitely don't want a repeat.  I felt like I did a little better this week.  Whoo hoo!! 

I am definitely making progress with my running program.  I am using the Running for Weight Loss app.  I have it set for beginner and it is an 8 week program that has three workouts a week.  I am up to the seventh week now and was able to complete all three workouts this week.  The workouts keep getting progressively harder, but I am feeling so proud that I have been able to come this far without giving up.

I am still struggling with the diet piece of the plan.  I didn't do that great Super Bowl Sunday, but the rest of the week I did pretty good.  I have decided not to weigh myself until the end of the month.  I don't want the scale to influence my motivation.  If I don't see the numbers go down I am worried I'll get discouraged.  I figure I will give myself some time to see progress.

I finished Susan Mallory's Someone Like You on Sunday.  Then I moved onto Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren.  It took me all week to read it and I finally finished it on Saturday.

It was a busy week with me having to do back-to-back grower trainings.  I was in Live Oak, Florida on Monday and Tuesday and then was back home the remainder of the week to train in Lake Alfred, which luckily is only 30 minutes from my house.  I was able to sleep in my own bed for a change!

On Saturday, I had a Junior League mobile food pantry event to volunteer at in the morning.  Later, we took the kids to see The LEGO Batman Movie.  Everyone enjoyed the movie.  There actually was cute a storyline.  Batman keeps himself emotionally closed off from everyone and this was his journey to finding a family.  There is plenty of humor for everyone and lots of pop culture references.  If you enjoyed the first LEGO movie, then I'm sure you would enjoy this one.

That about wraps up my week!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review: Do You Want to Start a Scandal

Title: Do You Want to Start a Scandal
Author: Tessa Dare
Publishing Date: 2016
Genre: Historical
Rating: B+
Sensuality: Hot
Book Disclosure: I purchased an ebook.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal is the 5th book in the Spindle Cove series by Tessa Dare.  While you can read this series out of order, it would still be my recommendation to read in order.  Only because the characters continually reappear in each of the books, but each book does have its own stand alone romance. 

In this installment Piers Brandon, who is a spy for the crown, is investigating a potential recruit at a garden party.  While snooping through the home owner's study, a young woman, Charlotte Highwood takes him by surprise.  One thing leads to another and they are found alone together.  To minimize the scandal, Piers agrees on an engagement to her.  He really is taken with her and finds himself wanting to convince her, marriage to him is a good thing.

I found Do You Want to Start a Scandal to be just what I needed at the moment.  It's lighthearted, charming and sweet.  Tessa Dare once again delivers another delightful addition to the Spindle Cove series.  Charlotte is adventurous and outspoken without being brash and rude.  She really is rather sweet and the reader quickly falls under her spell just as Piers does.  She feels bad that Piers is getting saddled with her all because they were found together alone.  Piers on the other hand, thinks this might be his lucky day and sets out to make sure he seals the deal.  What follows are a series of fun scenes. 

I really don't have any complaints about the book.  Its not very deep or heavy, but I think that is in its favor.  I would highly recommend this one if you need to escape from reality for a while.  I mean who wouldn't need that right about now!  Another enjoyable story by Tessa Dare.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Week 5 2017: January Report Card

I made it through the first month of 2017.  I got the idea to do a report card of my resolutions for January from my friend Mary Beth over at Tutus and Tennies.  So how did I do?

1.  Lose some damn weight!
Well, I am disappointed to report that I did not lose any weight this month. Although, it really isn't surprising, since I didn't try that hard. Grrrr! I did pretty well exercise wise.  I managed to run 3 days a week, 3 weeks out of 4.  Where I really did bad were my eating habits.  I did well the first week, but then slowly went back to my old habits the remaining weeks.  I really need to do a better job here.  It's just that I really don't feel like counting calories or points. My motivation is seriously in the crapper.  Any words of encouragement would be appreciated.  I have got to get my head in the game!  Grade C-

2.  Post regularly to my blog.
My goal here was to post at least once a week to my blog.  I managed to get 5 posts in this month!  I did miss last week, but one week I posted twice.  Grade A-

3.  Read 75 books this year.
That means I would need to read about 6 books each month.  I didn't quite make that pace.  I read 4 books this month.  Grade C

1. Kiss Me, Annabel by Eloisa James  Grade B
2. Bloodspell by Amalie Howard  Grade C-
3. And Then She Was Gone by Christopher Greyson  Grade C
4. Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare  Grade B+

Last week brought about news that will bring change to our household.  The Hubster received a job offer to work at a local hospital and he has accepted.  This will be his first time changing jobs in 15 years.  Since it is a hospital, he will be doing shift work.  It will be quite a change going from 5 days a week, 8 hours each day to 3 days a week, 12 hours each day.  And he will go from Monday - Friday to working Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  He starts Feb 20th.

What would be one of the first things you would do upon getting a new job?  Would it be to run out and buy a new car?!?!  If you answered yes, then you would have done the exact same thing the Hubster did!  He traded in his 10 year old Honda Accord for a Chevy Camaro.  Can you say midlife crisis?  Should I be worried???

I will say, it is a pretty sweet ride.  I got to drive it home from the dealership because Jeff was throwing up.  We are still not sure if it was the flu or food borne illness.  Only by the grace of God, did we manage to make it home without a mess in his brand new car!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Week 3 2017: The Struggle is Real

I'm a little late with this post.  Already, we are into week 4 and I am just now getting to how my week 3 went.  This week started out with more travel.  This time, instead of heading to New Orleans, I was headed to Woodland, California.  I serve on a technical committee that reviews research proposals for produce food safety research.  Whoo hoo!! That sounds really exciting, doesn't it?!?  Well, for the nerdy, scientific side of myself, I do find it pretty interesting.

Monday was spent flying out to Sacramento.  Woodland is only 15 minutes from the airport and I was able to get a hotel shuttle to take me to the hotel, where our meeting would be.  I had dinner out and then was off to bed.  The time change wasn't too bad, but I did wind up sleeping like a rock.

Tuesday I spent from 8:00am - 8:00pm in the meeting.  This year we had a record number of research proposals and it took all day.  Then off to bed, because I had to be up at 4:00am to catch my flight home.

I thought Wednesday would never end.  My flight out that morning was delayed.  And wouldn't you know it, it wasn't until the plane was fully boarded that a warning light came on in the cockpit.  Lucky us!  We got to sit on the plane for an hour before we were given the thumbs up to hit the sky.  I missed my connecting flight home.  The nice thing is that when I landed in Dallas, my missed connection had already been assigned to another flight.  I was only delayed by a few hours and I didn't have to do anything, other than show up.  I made it back to my house after 9:00pm and everyone was in bed already!! So much for rushing to get home to see everyone.

I had book club on Thursday.  Lilly had chosen And Then She Was Gone by Christopher Greyson.  This was a prequel to the Jack Stratton series.  The book is about Jack when he is still a teenager before he enlists in the army.  I haven't ever read this author before.  I enjoyed the story.  It was short and fast-paced.  However, it did seem a little unbelievable some of the decisions that Jack would make.  He was very impulsive and it was a theme throughout the story.  I did like his character, though and wouldn't mind reading some of the other books in the series.  Most of the others in book club felt similarly about the book.  There were a few who hadn't finished it, so we tried not to talk about the ending too much.  Didn't want to give away spoilers!

I also received my ipsy bag this week.  I received these five products:

Manna Kadar Cosmetics: Paradise Blush - This blush is really too dark for my skin tone.  I tried and bam - I thought I looked like a Lady of the Night, or a clown.  Not a good look for me.

H2O + Beauty Oasis Ultra Hydrating Cream - This is a nice thick hydrating cream, just like the name says.  It doesn't have any scent attached to it and if you have dry skin, especially in the winter time, this cream is nice.  I'll be using it when I am in dry climates.

Trust Fund Beauty: Lip Gloss in Blame Game - Hand down, my favorite product so far, from my ipsy bags.  I love the color of this lip gloss.  It's not very dark, and has just enough color to tint your lips for a nice natural look for daytime.  You can add layers to darken the color.  The consistency is creamy and has a good amount of shine.  Love it!  The only complaint I have is that when applying it, there is a chemical smell.  You don't smell it when wearing it - only on application.

Naked Cosmetics: Mica Pigment in Desert Sunset #2 - I wasn't even sure what this product was, so I headed to the website to find out how to use it.  Wow.  I was surprised at all the things you can do with it.  You can mix the pigment with lip balm and make a lip gloss or eyeshadow with it.  You can mix it with face cream and make a sparkly highlight for your cheeks.  Or you can mix it with body lotion and create a shimmer for your body.  They even showed how you could mix it with clear nail polish to create a sparkly, tinted polish.  Very versatile.  I haven't tried any of it yet, but I look forward to experimenting with it.

5. Caite London: Gelology Top Coat - This is just a clear nail polish.  I haven't experimented with it yet.  I'll let you know how it goes.

My weekend was spent trying to relax and catch up on housework I wasn't able to do because of traveling.  I did see the movie Split with DH and DD.  This is an M. Night Shyamalan movie about a guy with a multiple personality disorder who kidnaps a group of girls.  It was pretty good.  James McAvoy plays the kidnapper and he does a phenomenal job with all the different characters.  I enjoyed it, but there is a brief cameo at the end with a character from another Shyamalan movie and I didn't get the reference.  I am not sure if this was sequel bating or not.

I am really disappointed that I was not able to get any exercise in this week.  Not a single run or yoga class was attended. Ugh!  The struggle is real.  On the plus side, my eating choices were a little better than normal.  It would be nice if I could manage do both at the same time. Well...there is always next week!

How was your week?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Review: Bloodspell

Title: Bloodspell
Author: Amalie Howard
Publishing Date: 2011
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Rating: C-
Sensuality: Kisses
Book Disclosure: I received this book for free at the RT Convention 2016.

Bloodspell is the first book in the Cruentus Curse series.  Victoria Warrick has experienced some very strange happenings within her own body around the time of her seventeenth birthday.  On her birthday, she receives a music box from her late Grandmother, that help to provide answers as to why these strange experiences have been happening to her.  She comes from a long line of witches, as she happens to be a direct descendent from one of the most powerful.  Victoria moves to a new school and meets Christian Devereux.  There is something unusual about him that Victoria can't help but be drawn to. But because of Victoria's power, other supernatural beings are after her and she is in danger.

I really struggled with this book.  It took me over a week to read it and it just couldn't hold my attention.  I think some of it was because of the plot.  It just felt all over the map, with the world building.  Establishing the witch and vampire lore for this storyline took up some space and it just wasn't all that interesting.  It was also hard to like the main characters.  Victoria is not a warm and fuzzy heroine.  She is darn right prickly and standoffish.  It was hard to feel empathy for her and the same with Christian.  Then some of the adversary characters felt like comic book bad guys.  Also, I felt the romance with Christian and Victoria was not very believable.  First, Christian and Victoria had such a difference between their ages, that it was hard to believe that a romance would be possible.  Also, they spent quite a bit of the book pushing each other away.  And then the piece de resistance, when Victoria is in grave danger he realizes his true feelings. 

The saving grace for this book would be the action packed ending.  The last quarter of the book, boy do things really pick up and I enjoyed the battle at the end.  But other than that, there wasn't much that I would recommend.  I most likely won't be continuing on with the other books in this series.