Show Us Your Books – January

 

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I’m writing this month’s Show Us Your Books link-up post because I’ve been without cable and internet for a week now (THE HORROR!). Looking forward to seeing what everyone else has been reading lately!

Year of No Cluttern by Eve Schaub

Goodreads * Amazon

This book will be published in March 2017. I received an advance review copy from Netgalley.

This is a memoir written by a woman who decides to finally deal with the huge Hoarders-ish room in her otherwise normal-looking house. As you can imagine, this also includes dealing with all of the mental stuff the physical stuff brings up.

This was such a fun read. The author has a talent for sharing personal stories with a lot of humor, and let’s be honest, it’s a total guilty pleasure to get a peek into someone else’s home, even in text form. It’s interesting to watch her journey, including the realistic reaction to reading Marie Kondo’s advice. Although this isn’t a how-to book, it’s hard not to be tempted to go dig through some of your own stuff as you read!

 

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Goodreads * Amazon

I’m not usually into short stories because I don’t feel like they give the opportunity to dive into a world and its characters in a real way. Roxanne Gay does the total opposite in this collection, though, developing interesting, layered characters in a matter of pages. It’s bittersweet, because I left pretty much every story wishing there was more to it. I think of them characters as “difficult” women as in “the opposite of simple”, but then – aren’t we all?

I should mention that many of the women in the story have dark stories, so I could definitely imagine some being triggering for those who have experienced abuse or the loss of a child. Despite the darkness, I found this tough to put down. I didn’t love every story, but overall the collection is great. (Bonus points to the author for RT-ing my tweet about a story!)

 

(Difficult Women was also a complimentary copy in exchange for review via Netgalley!)

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

Goodreads * Amazon

We all know that throughout history, men have often gotten credit for the accomplishments of their wives or other women, and this book is an interesting fictionalized version of the story of Einstein’s first wife Mileva, who was also an accomplished physicist. She must have been a fascinating woman, studying such a complicated subject at a time when almost no women attended university, especially in what we’d now refer to as STEM fields. There’s an obvious current cultural tie-in, and I could say all kinds of things about women often having to work twice as hard as men for half as much credit, incredibly talented and qualified women being overlooked for certain jobs, etc etc etc but I think we’re all depressed enough about that right now, right?

The other main thing this story made me think about is how little we know about the private lives of beloved historical figures. The author had letters between Albert and Mileva to refer to, which were especially helpful for finding her “voice”, but the home life and romance and ultimate end of their time together all had to be created for the story. I don’t want to get all spoilery, but it did make me think about how early reality shows like the Osbornes were our first look at what celebrities are like outside of interviews, the red carpet, etc. (I mean, reality tv obviously has its fair share of fakeness, but it opened that window of “Oh, this famous singer hangs out on the couch eating tuna sandwiches, although she’s not quite sure that it’ fish.”)

I’d recommend this for fans of books like The Paris Wife (about Hemingway’s first wife). There’s a lot of struggle in Mileva’s life (I mean, it’s about Einstein’s FIRST wife, so we know from the get go that things don’t end well) so I wouldn’t really call it a light/upliting read, but it’s definitely an interesting portrait of a woman mostly forgotten by history. I hate giving things ratings, so I’ll go with “Worth reading, but not an all time favorite”.

Visit Life According to Steph and Jana Says to see what dozens of other bloggers have been reading lately!

Education and Conservation at Dickerson Park Zoo

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Did you know that a hippopotamus can crush a large pumpkin with its jaws? Neither did I, until I was handed a pumpkin and told I could place it right into the waiting hippo’s mouth.

 

Hungry Hungry Hippos!

 

Last month I got the opportunity to visit Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, MO, including an awesome behind the scenes tour that involved animal interactions like my moment with the hippos above. Although I got a more in-depth look at all of the care and attention that goes into caring for the zoo’s 500+ animals than the average visitor does, most of the special experiences I got to participate in are available to everyone!

I grew up in southwest MO, so I remember visiting Dickerson Park Zoo as a kid, but I don’t think I’d been since the 80s, so my memories are pretty thin! The zoo is located right next to the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, so anytime I’ve attended an event there over the past few years, I found myself thinking it would be fun to revisit the zoo. Glad I finally got a chance to!

 

Visiting the zoo’s veterinary facilities made me wish I’d gone pre-vet in college like I’d planned in high school! Being a zoo vet would be absolutely fascinating, since you get so many unusual cases and creatures. Sure, they still spend a lot of time doing routine exams like a regular vet but just within the past few days before my visit, they had repaired the broken beak of a Scarlet Ibis and crafted a little boot for a black swan with a foot problem so it could heal more comfortably. I think I’d love the creativity and out of the box thinking required to treat such a wide range of animals and illnesses!

One thing I was totally unaware of is the scope of the zoo’s work rehabilitating injured wildlife, primarily large birds of prey. The program began back in the 70s, and today local residents bring in injured birds including eagles, owls, and hawks on a weekly basis.

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One of the zoo’s veterinary staff releasing a rehabilitated hawk earlier this year

Bald eagles are probably one of the most well known animals when it come to conservation efforts to save them from extinction. They were declared an endangered species in 1967, but thanks to efforts of conversationalists like those at DickersonPark Zoo, they were officially removed from the endangered list in 2007. The zoo’s rehabilitation team was involved with the rehab and release of over 70 bald eagles in the 80s and 90s. Given that there were under 2,000 breeding pairs of bald eagles in the US in the 80s, those 70 birds definitely made a difference in helping with repopulation! (They actually JUST released another rehabilitated eagle today!)

 

One very cool experience that’s available to zoo guests for a really reasonable extra fee is giraffe feeding. (Their website has info on all of the available animal encounters!) I love giraffes (maybe because I’m tall?) but this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to get within a few feet of one. After meeting a four year old giraffe named Millie, I got to watch some training exercises that her keepers had been working on with her (was surprised how similar it is to training a horse!), and then take about a billion selfies while feeding her. I don’t care what anyone else posted on Instagram that day – giraffe selfies win the internet!

Giraffe encounter at Dickerson Park Zoo Springfield MO

Look at how huge her head is compared to my entire upper body!

You may have seen that giraffes recently joined the endangered species list. I can’t imagine a better way for kids to really understand the importance of protecting a species than getting up close to it like I did and having that personal connection!


Even if you’re not springing for the giraffe tour, the giraffe exhibit is still designed to let you get up pretty close because there’s an overlook deck with giraffe food dispensers that’s available to all zoo visitors.

The wind chill was 45 degrees on the day I visited, so I only spent about an hour wandering around after my tour. The zoo is open year round (weather permitting) which makes sense since the staff needs to be there to take care of the animals whether there are a lot of guests or not! I ended up missing an entire section of exhibits thanks to my total whimpiness when it comes to cold weather, so  hopefully I can return soon to explore again! Just wandering the park is relaxing – the natural Ozarks scenery is lovely! I’d definitely recommend making sure you have several hours set aside to visit so that you can thoroughly explore.

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I spent a big chunk of time in the reptile house since it was nice and warm in there (and I like pretending I’m Harry Potter). It was divided between different environments (desert vs rainforest), and I loved that they had a whole section just for creatures from here in the Ozarks!

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Pro Tip: The reptile house is always your friend on super hot or cold days! Yay for climate control!

Given that I used to live a couple of miles from Disney’s Animal Kingdom, my bar for animal viewing is obviously set pretty high. No, it’s not Disney, but I appreciated a lot of the details that went into the design of the zoo for a great guest experience, like cool animal art throughout the park and that even though the animals are in enclosures, I was able to find a spot to get fence-less photos of the animals at each exhibit. I especially appreciated that they had several exhibits featuring animals I’m used to only seeing for a few seconds on Disney’s safari ride, which meant I could actually hang out and watch them for as long as I wanted instead of just driving past. The more traditional exhibit was great for animals like the Bongos, which are usually so hidden away that they’re known as the “ghosts of the forest”! I was happy to see that all of the animal habits at this zoo are thoughtfully designed to keep the animals really happy and healthy!

bongos

Admission to Dickerson Park Zoo is just $12 for adults and $8 for kids and seniors, but if you are visiting Springfield, MO or live nearby, I would 100% suggest spending a little more and doing one of the animal encounter experiences. There’s a river otter feeding experience that includes watching a training session that’s only $30 for a group of up to 3 people. Zebra feeding is also $30, but doesn’t include the training session. You can barely take 3 people to the movies for that price, so it’s an awesome deal for such a unique experience. (And photo opp! Let’s be honest, we all love awesome things to post on our blogs or social media!) They offer experiences with elephants, tigers, tortoises, eagles… not every animal in the zoo, but pretty close! Tons of zoos and theme parks offer “behind the scenes” tours and encounters, but they tend to be super expensive. I love that Dickerson Park Zoo offer such cool educational experiences at prices that actually make them accessible to most visitors!

If you do plan to visit Dickerson Park Zoo the next time you’re in Springfield, be sure to visit their website for hours, directions, and activity sheets and scavenger hunts you an print for the kids (or yourself!) before your visit. You can also find zoo news and fun animal photos on their Facebook and Instagram!

Thanks to the Springfield CVB, who hooked me up with a press pass to Dickerson Park Zoo, and to all of the zoo staff members who took time out of their day to show me around and share their knowledge!

 

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Friday Favorites – Merry Almost Christmas!

Happy Friday!

I started to type “This week has been nuts!” as the first sentence of this post, but then I realize that I could open almost any Friday post from all of 2016 that way. Just over a week to go until we’ve survived this crazy-go-nuts year! (Knock on wood!) And yes, I am seriously considering designing “I Survived 2016!” t-shirts.

This one little Friday Favs post has been half finished for WEEKS. I’ve been so busy working on other projects that blog posts haven’t gotten much of my time. Giving myself a high five for finally actually finishing it!

Here’s what I’m digging this week!

1. I can’t believe I forgot to mention the Gilmore Girls revival in my last Friday favs! I watched all 4 episodes the day they came out, and definitely hope they do another “season”. I don’t want to post spoilers, but I’ll just say that THAT SONG near the end of the last one killed me. The episode it’s originally in from Season 4 is my fav, so for it to return in that way was everything.

Also, shout-out to the return of Robert, aka my dear handsome amazing-haired friend Nick. Check out his Instagram for some fun behind-the-scenes Life & Death Brigade stuff, but you might wanna know in advance that he’s also a photographer, so there are also a lot of semi-naked ladies on there. He’s got a tough life.

 

 

He also recently published a book of poetry, since jut being handsome and talented didn’t already do enough for his ego. (Kidding. Mostly. 😉 )

2. I found these leggings on clearance for 40 CENTS this week! Um, yes please!

halloween-leggings

3. I’ve been craving a nice long soak in a big bathtub, but I only have a shower. The other night I decided to just use the bathroom sink and soak my feet in nice warm water with Epsom salts and it’s my new favorite way to end the day before I head to bed.

4. My cats got a box full of Muse cat food courtesy of Chewy.com, and they’re super into it!  They tried the Natural Salmon Recipe this time, and probably would have happily eaten the whole 24-pk of cans in one night if only they had the thumb to open them. I love that Muse cat foods always look like actual *food*, vs mush.

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And, as always, the cats were excited about the box that the food came in!

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Captain Kitten commandeered this box immediately.

5. I found my favorite new story of the whole year: Two Sex Shop Employees Fought Off A Robber By Pelting Him With Dildos

I need Amy to be my new BFF because this is totally how I deal with life’s problems, too:

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Best. News story.

 

Friday blog linkup fri-favs

Friday Favorites – December is cold!

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Happy Friday! I’ve missed the past few Friday Favorites link-ups, so I feel like I have some catching up to do! I spent most of last week down in Key West (I’ll post about it soon!), which was lovely but made coming home to freezing temps really rough! Looking forward to moving back to Orlando ASAP so that when I travel, I’ll almost be returning home to awesomeness.

Let’s Friday Fav it up! (Contains affiliate links because cat food is expensive!)

1. The Target bird addiction continues. Added this guy to my collection recently:

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I NEED THEM ALL! 

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The birds are only in stores, but this awesome “Hairy Llama” guy is available online here! They also have this llama ornament, who kinda looks like a hipster llama to me.

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2. So excited that the new Hamilton Mixtape is on Spotify now! There are a few songs I love (the one above, and the Kelly Clarkson cover of Quiet Uptown), but there are also a lot that are great but just not up to the original. It’s hard to remix perfection!

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3. You guys probably know by now that I’m in love with the cute “Nite Nite Munki Munki” sleepwear at Target. They came out with this SUPER cute new bird print, which I might have to treat myself to for my birthday (This weekend!) Looks like the print is only available on the long sleeved nightgown, which is kinda a bummer since I prefer pants, but it’s so cute I might go for it anyway. (They also have cute new Fa La Llama sleep pants that are super cute!)

4. I’ll write about my getaway to Key West soon, but I wanted to share a little thing there that I loved!

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We first spotted this poem embedded in the sidewalk just outside of the Key West cemetery. Over the next couple of days, we spotted two more sidewalk poems in other parts of the island. It was so fun to just be walking down a street and almost literally stumble upon a fun surprise. I just looked them up and found that there are 17 poems around Key West, all by local poets. Love it!

5. The Springfield, MO CVB recently sent me a press pass to check out some local attractions (more on that coming soon!). One place I got to check out was a bowling alley/arcade/entertainment center called Andy B’s. I’m sure I’ve driven past it a thousand times (It’s really close to the Battlefield Mall), but I’d never noticed it before! I was in Springfield solo that day, so I didn’t bowl or play laser tag, but I did have some fun in the arcade! They have some super high tech games, but I naturally gravitated towards the old school games. Was happy to see I still have some pretty impressive skee-ball skills!

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Throwing things at evil orange clowns with weird hair is easily the most therapeutic thing I’ve done since the election.

Traded in the tickets I earned for some fun little prizes. You know I’m a total #CatLady because I picked toys based on what the cats would want to play with.

 

They also have a restaurant with a full bar on-site, which is a huge step up from the usual beer and hot dogs you’d expect when bowling!

 

Two notes before I wrap up :

1) I’m working on an article on why hotels should work with travel bloggers. If you’d like to share your input or have a great post that you partnered with a hotel for, send ’em my way at andblueskyblog (at) gmail! Can’t guarantee I’ll include links to everyone who submits something, but I’ll do my best!

2) Don’t miss yesterday’s post filled with fun podcasts to listen to on your crazy holiday travels!

Happy weekend!

Friday blog linkup fri-favs

8 Podcasts For Your Holiday Travels

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I just got back from a quick trip down to Key West (more on that soon!), and while I missed the craziest season of holiday travel, I found myself thinking a lot about all of the ways we amuse ourselves while we’re waiting around in airports, trying to survive multiple hours of no WiFi (THE HORROR!) while in flight, or even driving long stretches of unremarkable highway. I’m a podcast addict, so I thought I’d share a few of my current favs in case you need something interesting to listen to on your upcoming adventures!

rude-tudors

Rude Tudors is the only British history podcast you need in your life. Literary historian Liz Rodriguez and her hilarious co-host Nicole Keating take on the Renaissance with a unique spin that makes long drives fly by.  Previous episodes have included important topics like old school contraception, historical hairstyles, and of course, cats.

Real Talk Radio podcast with Nicole Antoinette

Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette

I followed Nicole‘s blog way back in the days of 20SB when it was called More Is Better, and then when it totally changed as her life did and became Life Less Bullshit. She’s now transitioned from blogging to podcasting, and is putting out fascinating episodes Netflix series style (entire season at a time) which is perfect if you want to binge listen on a long road trip. The latest seasons included talks with a burlesque dancer, a dogsled racer, and several professional runners.

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I’ve posted about The Babysitters Club Club in my Friday Favorites before, but here it is again! If you happened to be a young girl in the late 80s and early 90s, you’ve almost certainly read the Babysitters Club books. The hosts of this show, Jack Shepherd and Tanner Greenring are NOT young girls, mostly because they are dudes in their 30s. Each week they read and discuss one of the books, complete with charmingly way too in-depth analysis (ahem, Jack), totally off the wall paranormal theories (Tanner), and plenty of fresh perspective on old books.

 

buffering-vampire-slayer

Buffering the Vampire Slayer is still pretty new (They’re just finishing up Season 1) but a must for Buffy fans. Besides just being a great podcast, hosts Jenny Owen Youngs and Kristin Russo close out each episode with an original song. AND they have a great interview with Armin Shimerman (Principal Snyder from seasons 1-3).

 

Love Alexi podcast on Nerdist with Alexi Wasser

Love, Alexi

Alexi Wasser used to run the blog I’m Boy Crazy, but now interviews a whole range of interesting guests on her Nerdist network podcast. There’s plenty of discussion about the entertainment industry, love, relationships, and just plain living your life, feeling your feelings. Most of the interviews are close to 2 hours long, so by the end guests are really opening up about the real stuff.

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I seriously binged on One Part Podcast during my drive from FL to MO earlier this year, so it’s one of those podcasts where I get all excited about new episodes since I’m totally out of old ones. In addition to weekly longform interviews, Jessica also does a monthly “Things that freaked my week” episode where a guest shares everything they’re digging right now. She has a new cookbook called One Part Plant coming out in 2017!

Let it Out with Katie Dalebout podcast

Let It Out with Katie Dalebout

I received Katie’s book of journaling exercises by the same name a couple of months ago (Yes, I’ll get around to reviewing it soon!) Some of her older episodes aren’t quite my jam, but it’s gotten way better over the years as both Katie’s skills at interviewing and her overall outlook on life have evolved. You’ll want a notebook and pen handy while listening to the recent interview with Josh Radnor (HIMYM) because he drops some seriously brilliant ideas.

Undisclosed

Season 1 of Undisclosed was a follow-up to Season 1 of Serial, bringing together Rabia Chaudrey (Family friend of Adnan Syed who originally brought the story to Sarah Koenig for Serial. I recently reviewed her book, Adnan’s Story), as well as law professor Colin Miller and legal badass Susan Simpson. The second season dives deep into another wrongful conviction that has resulted in an innocent man behind bars for murder since shortly after high school. Great for true crime fans or those who love geeking out about the law. There’s also a weekly addendum episode hosted by Jon Cryer.

 

Do you have any favorite podcasts that didn’t make my list? Let me know about them down in the comments!