The Art of French Kissing by Kristin Harmel

1013522I finished about half of this book while I was getting a pedicure yesterday and I seriously didn’t want to stop. I think I like this one better than the first novel I read by her, though this didn’t have the “heart” of Italian for Beginners.

Our heroine gets dumped by her fiance and downsized by her job in the same week. Her local friends suck, but her old friend from study abroad comes through with a PR job in Paris. Emma’s no fool, so she flies to Paris to manage a rising music star during his album release. It’s pre-iPhone era, which is always a fun time travel, without going all the way back to the 90s.

It’s never fully explained why Guillaume does the things that he does, but it does seem like he’s not a total asshole, which helps. Emma’s family sucks, but luckily, they are only there in the beginning and the end-ish. I really loved how Emma and Gabe kept coming together and while I hated their reconciliation (SO unrealistic, even for chick lit!), I was happy that things did work out. And of course, now I want to go to Paris!

Italian for Beginners by Kristin Harmel

italian I picked up this novel at the library book sale last year, based primarily on the title, cover art, and summary that a lady in her mid-30s is off to Rome on a whim. I haven’t had the best luck with $1 novels from the book sale, but this one was AMAZING!

Cat Connelly is stuck in her life, even though she doesn’t feel like she is. A messed up childhood has left her feeling responsible for her father and sister, even though she’s nearly 35. After meeting a nice guy at her sister’s wedding who is NOT what she thought, she’s convinced to take a month off and head to Rome. It gets a little Roman Holiday from there (or so I’m told since I’ve not seen the film), but it does make me want to hop a plane tomorrow!

I enjoyed Cat finding out the truth of her family situation, finding her new passion, and meeting good people who help her with all of the above. As someone who is planning a trip to one of my parents’ childhood countries (though no traumatic event is inspiring it!), it made me excited to explore a new place and see if maybe I might fit there too.

What I’m Looking Forward To This Year

Today’s Challenge prompt makes me think of all the places I want to go. I logged into TripIt yesterday and saw that screen. It’s been such a long time since I didn’t have a trip on the horizon. So of course, I started planning! Continue reading

35-for-35 Progress Report

It’s now been two months since my birthday (seriously – what the hell?!), so I thought I’d check in with where I am, what I’ve done and what’s left to go.

The Books challenge is going the best at the moment. With two weeks off at the holidays and less stress at work, it’s been easier to stay ahead on this challenge. I figured this part would be the easiest for me to accomplish, which is why it’s here. I want to feel like I’m making some progress in this ridiculous challenge!

The Recipes challenge isn’t going as well as I thought it might. Turns out, when I get home at night (or when it’s time to cook on the weekend), I’d much rather make something that I know I like rather than experimenting with something that might not turn out well and then having to eat it for a week. And since I’m not much of a cook, a lot of even the “simple” recipes call for ingredients that I just don’t keep in the house, making this a bit more expensive than I had anticipated. But I’m hoping I can branch out into some new and different recipes (mug cakes or other microwave-related things), instead of just concentrating on dinner things.

The Places challenge, well, it really hasn’t started yet. Due to family things, I wasn’t able to travel during the holidays and it now seems like I probably won’t be going to Oregon for Spring Break like I had originally planned. So I’m going to have to get more creative during the weekends (which are already filled with errands, chores and other local stuff) to take day trips within California. I still hope to go on my summer vacation, but that will only knock off a couple of new cities, so I’ve got my work cut out for me. I need to visit 3.5 new places a month from now on to stay on track. Yikes!

35-for-35 Begins Now!

With my birthday approaching on Wednesday, I’ve been thinking about my NEXT birthday, which is a bit of a milestone. And while that milestone could be a downer, I’ve decided to make it a challenge instead. I had originally thought about making a list of thirty-five things to do (like this one), but it turns out, I’m just not that creative on short notice. So, I’m challenging myself to complete the following before my next birthday:

1. Read 35 Books
Every calendar year, I try to read 50 books and I’ve failed miserably every year since I’ve been keeping track. So in 2014, I decided to try for 25 books, and I think I might actually get there. In 2015, I’m planning to up this to 30. So, I think this is a pretty doable goal, while still being a challenge.

2. Visit 35 New Cities
I was inspired by this post to expand my horizons with travel in the next year. My upcoming road trip to Oregon should help knock off a few spots, but I hope this will get me out of my comfort zone without breaking the bank.

3. Make 35 New Recipes
I know, I know! I’m afraid of my oven and I haven’t turned my stove on since I moved in, but I do have a slow cooker and a microwave. Between the cookbooks my mom has given me and Pinterest, I feel like I can add some variety to my diet without getting too crazy.

I’ll be documenting my progress on these challenges here on the blog as a way to stay motivated and accountable. Here we go!