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Author: Crystal

Show Us Your Books – February Edition

Show Us Your Books – February Edition

Happy Tuesday! It’s been a few months since I’ve participated in the Show Us your Books link-up, so I’m glad that I finally finished a post on time! Can I get some kind of trophy for that?

 

Here’s what I’ve been reading recently:

 

As You Wish

Goodreads *Amazon

A while back I was discussing The Princess Bride with a friend and realized that I had never read the book. When I went to borrow it from my library (see below) there was a long wait list, but this was available, so I grabbed it! I listened to the audiobook, which is read by Cary Elwes, which definitely adds to the experience. It’s fun to hear his experiences making the movie, from learning how to fence to stories about how much Andre the Giant could eat. Check it out if you’re a fan of the movie!

 

 

The Princess Bride

Goodreads *Amazon

 

As always tends to happen when you finally read the book that a movie is based on, this gives a lot more depth to the story and characters that I never knew. Where the movie has the grandfather telling Fred Savage the story, the book is set up as the author abridging this old text that he found, so you still get the interludes. It’s a fun read if you haven’t already!

(It’s available to read for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! You can get a free month of Kindle Unlimited here.)

 

 

 

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

Goodreads * Amazon

I was super excited to find a new Bill Bryson book available on Netgalley for review! I love most of his travel books, but I didn’t make it very far through his last nonfiction. I’ve really enjoyed this one, though! It’s full of crazy facts about the body and medicine, and there’s a little bit of humor sprinkled in to keep it fun. It’s one of those books that makes you annoy your friends because you keep saying things like, “I’m reading this book about the body and I just learned that…” 

A couple of my favs:

*According to the USDA, about a quarter of all chicken sold in stores is contaminated with salmonella.

*”Giraffes, oddly, sometimes have gallbladders and sometimes don’t.”

*Loss of balance usually makes you nauseous because your brain doesn’t know what’s up and interprets it as you being poisoned. 

*Almost 3/4 of the prescriptions written in the US for antibiotics are written for conditions that can’t be cured with anitbiotics.

 

If you like reading nonfiction that gives you random trivia to spout off, this one is a lot of fun.

 

 

 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottleib

Goodreads *Amazon

You’ve probably heard about this memoir by now. The author is a therapist who winds up seeking therapy after a breakup. The chapters alternate between her experience in therapy and her experiences with her patients. It’s one of those books where you laugh, cry, and have big “ah-ha!” moments. One that stuck with me is the idea that when we lose someone, whether through a breakup or death or whatever, we like to keep talking about them almost obsessively for an extended period because it’s a way of still feeling connected to them. 

People often mistake numbness for nothingness, but numbness isn’t the absence of feelings; it’s a response to being overwhelmed by too many feelings.

 

Side note – There’s an episode of the Armchair Expert podcast that interviews the author that’s worth checking out if you like the book.

 

Finish – Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff

Goodreads * Amazon

I am terrible at finishing things. As an example, I currently have 156 posts published on this blog, and 51 half-written posts sitting in the drafts folder. Some of those drafts have been sitting therefor YEARS. I’m great at starting, but definitely have issues around finishing things.     I listened to this as an audiobook (borrowed from my library) several months ago and really enjoyed it, but when I went to write about it here I couldn’t remember anything, so I got on the waiting list and finally got to listen again. Yay! However, even after listening again all I can tell you is that I found it to be good motivation – I can’t remember the other takeaways.

“The opposite of perfectionism isn’t failure, it’s finished.”

“You don’t just give time to something, you take it from something else.”

 

Leaving the Witness: Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life by Amber Scorah

Goodreads * Amazon

I was browsing my library’s nonfiction e-books and found this. The description mentioned it being similar to Educated, which I loved, so I had to request it. The author grew up as a Jehova’s Witness and wound up moving to China with her husband to attempt to convert people. As you can imagine, living in a whole other culture opened her eyes to a lot of things she had been sheltered from. I can’t say that this was anywhere as good as Educated, but it is an interesting read.

 

Be sure to visit Life According to Steph and Jana Says to see what dozens of other bloggers have been reading and reviewing.

Friday Favs – Where Did January Go?

Friday Favs – Where Did January Go?

Happy Friday, friends! Is it just me or did January fly by? I had over a week of SUPER slow speeds (it took an entire hour to upload a 10 MB file one night!) and then almost another entire week of no internet at all. This seems to happen every winter, but I’m so happy to be back in business!

I’m considering doing my Friday Favs posts just once a month for awhile. With the weather so cold and being laid off from several of my jobs, I haven’t had many exciting things to share. I’d way rather do a post once a month with things I’ve really been loving than stretch to come up with five things on a week when there isn’t much new!

Here’s what I’ve been loving lately:

 

 

 

1. I reread The Artist’s Way at least once a year, and it always brings up new ideas and new motivation. It;s one of those books that changes as your life does, and I always get something new from it.

There are quotes in the page margins, and I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately:

 

 

2. You may have noticed my blog looks different! I’ve been wanting to fix some things with my blog design FOREVER. I’m pretty decent at CSS and HTML but I HATE doing it. Plus, I learned on blogger since I used it from 1999 until like 2016, so WordPress is still foreign to me. Last week, I finally gave in and decided to see if I could find someone on Fiverr to fix two small things for me. I knew that what would take me hours to figure out would probably take someone experienced a few minutes. I found a guy who does WordPress work for $5, so I asked if he could fix the weird alignment issue I had with the top of my sidebar (for some reason it was like 3 pixels out of alignment and it drove me nuts) and fix my main column so that I could post photos that were at least 800 px wide instead of 600.

Unfortunately, my old WordPress theme was built in a super weird way that I would have needed to get the background graphics totally redesigned to make the changes work, so the guy I hired got back to me and let me know that unfortunately it just wasn’t going to look right if he made the changes I asked for. I was refunded quickly, which was a bummer at first, but I really appreciate that he was so honest about his limitations. I wound up just switching to a whole new theme instead, so while I miss my palm trees, at least I can post wider photos now!

If you have nagging tasks that you’ve been meaning to get around to for ages, I totally recommend Fiverr! Some people charge $10 or $25 or more for their work, and the site adds on a small fee. (I paid a total of $7 for my $5 project.) They have a referral program, so if you sign up via my link, you will get 20% off your first purchase! And like I mentioned, they are great with refunds if things don’t work out. I still consider it to be a really good experience even though it didn’t go as expected.

 

 

 

3. Although it’s super cold today, we’ve had a few REALLY nice days in the last month or so! I can’t resist a nice sunny day, so I’ve been outside a lot. I decided to put together a comprehensive guide to local hiking trails, and it’s a crazy amount of work, but I’m having a blast doing it! My first post should be going up next week, if I can ever manage to finish editing all of the photos. It’s been so fun to have a creative project to work on that I know is actually going to help people!

 

 

 

4. I found these gorgeous vases at Walmart of all places. For $4 each! It’s hard to tell from the photo, but they’re quite large – maybe 8″ tall? Can’t decide if I like the clear or the iridescent one better. But with Valentine’s Day coming up, I wanted to share since they’d be perfect for holding flowers you receive, or filling with the absurd amount of chocolate that you buy for yourself. (I think we know which of those categories I fall into.) I’ve been trying to think of other things I could use them for – basically I’m trying to justify a $4 purchase to myself. This is how my brain works. It’s fun in here.

 

5. Here’s to making better life choices in 2020. We’ve got this.

 

Linking up with A Little Bit of Everything for Friday Favorites

Win 2 Copies of “The Light Within” CD – Cat’s Meow Giveaway Hop

Win 2 Copies of “The Light Within” CD – Cat’s Meow Giveaway Hop

 

It’s giveaway time! It’s been a while since I’ve done one, so I’m excited about it.

A friend recently approached me about helping him get the word out about his CD, “The Light Within.” Although it is designed to be a lullabye CD, I love to put it on when I’m stressed. The music is sweet and soft and light, perfect for helping kids settle down for bedtime or playing on in the car when you’ve had a stressful day.

The title song is one of my favorites:

 

We thought it would be fun to give the winner two copies – one to keep and one to share with a friend or loved one. It would be a perfect gift for a new mom or anyone you know who could use some soothing music!

You can visit SkipLotten.com for more info, samples of songs, and a super cute animated video for The Light Within.

“The Light Within” CD is also available on Amazon, or you can purchase MP3s on CD Baby.

 

This giveaway is open to US residents 18 and older. You can do as many entries as you would like – the first one can be completed once a day to increase your chances of winning. The winner can choose physicals CD or codes for digital versions.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We are participating in the Cat’s Meow giveaway hop. Check out the linky below for more than 60 other giveaways with a wide array of prizes!

 

Thanks for entering, and good luck!

Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson, MO

Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson, MO

 

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson, MO and wanted to share my experience with you guys!

 

Hollywood Wax Museum Branson MO

I received complimentary admission in exchange for an honest review.

 

I recruited my friend Debbie to come with me – this kind of attraction is best with a friend who is totally ready to take a bunch of silly photos with you. It’s a great rainy-day activity, and will appeal to a pretty wide range of ages. (I don’t think small children would get much out of the experience, but kids old enough to recognize the celebrities and enjoy getting their photo taken will probably enjoy it.)

 

It’s almost impossible to miss the Hollywood Wax Museum as you’re driving down Highway 76 in Branson, which is the main street where most of the live music shows are located. In addition to the eye-catching King Kong above, the exterior features a Mt. Rushmore-style sculpture featuring classic stars:

 

rushmore faces on branson 76

 

There are a few different ticket options available. You can buy a ticket for just the Wax Museum, which at the time of posting is $22.99 ($12.99 for kids), or you can purchase an All Access Pass that also includes admission to Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors, the Castle of Chaos 5-D ride/game experience, and Shoot for the Stars Mini Golf, all of which are on-site and range from $13-16 each if purchased separately. The All Access Pass is currently $29.99 ($19.99 for kids), so you get a lot of extra entertainment for just a few dollars more! I even have a Branson Hollywood Wax Museum coupon that you guys can print out – it gets you $2 off each All Access Pass for up to six people! Score!

 

Castle of Chaos Branson MO

 

We went fairly late in the evening and wound up spending about two hours in just the Hollywood Wax Museum, but hopefully I can return at another time and write about the other three attractions. They all get good reviews on TripAdvisor, and your pass is good all day so you can always do one attraction in the morning, come back for another in the afternoon, and two more in the evening.

 

 

The Hollywood Wax Museum has exhibits spread out across two floors. (You can choose stairs or elevator to access the upper level.) Most rooms feature celebrities that all fit a certain theme, from classic Hollywood with Audrey Hepburn and Judy Garland to country music superstars including Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. I like that they offer wax figures from a pretty wide range of eras and genres, so your teens can get just as excited about Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift as grandma does about taking a photo with Frank Sinatra. (Or hey, maybe it’s Grandma who’s the Bieber super-fan and your 10th grader is into Old Blue Eyes. You get the idea!)

 

A few more classic stars:

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Planning A Trip to Japan? Check out Fish and Tips!

Planning A Trip to Japan? Check out Fish and Tips!

 

You guys know that I’m a hotel nerd. I write about hotels for a living, I’ve worked front desk and concierge, and my absolute favorite thing to do on my blog is to stay somewhere cool and share all of the details with you guys so that you can make informed choices when you’re travel. (Or just add a cool place to your wanderlust wish list!)


This is a sponsored post brought to you by Fish & Tips. I thought their website was so interesting that my fellow travel fans would want to check it out, too!

 

This week, I was introduced to a cool website called Fish & Tips. It’s a Japanese hotel review site, but all of their content is available in English. When you’re booking a trip to a place as far away as Tokyo or Okinawa, it’s super helpful to be able to see a lot of photos and info before making your decision!

 

While they focus on hotels in Japan, they do also offer a limited number of reviews of hotels in international destinations including Singapore, the USA, and Canada. I was super excited to see that one of the USA hotels that was reviewed was Disney’s All Star Sports Resort. I’ve worked there!

 

 

 

Each hotel on Fish & Tips is reviewed by an individual person who stayed there following a specific format (see above), and has SO MUCH INFO. I was so impressed when the first one I looked at listed out all of the toiletries and such that were supplied in the bathroom.

 

 

Given that some reviews appear to be written by people fluent in English and others are translated from Japanese, there is the occasional head-scratcher where something got lost in translation (among the list of bath products in one post was “milky lottery” – I still haven’t figured out what that could be!) but for the most part the reviews are easy to understand. Definitely better than my Japanese!

 

I’m instantly a fan of any hotel where I get to relax while someone brings me drinks!

 

As a lover of details, the amount of work that goes into the hotel reviews gets a big thumbs-up from me. They start with the exterior, show you the lobby and check-in, give a tour of the room they stayed in, show other amenities and restaurants on-site, etc. From the kind of products available in the gift shop to whether or not your room’s fridge is stocked with free drinks, they cover everything!

Unlike a lot of other review sites, these reviews mostly stick to being informative rather than being rants or raves. They do offer some opinions, like “It was nice to be able to see the ocean from the balcony,” and thoughts like “There was plenty of room to stretch my legs in the bathtub.” or “The meal was very filling.” That said, they do still point out flaws – I saw one review that said, “The room was beautiful except for the white carpet that was a little dirty.” It’s a nice alternative to sites that are purely informative and those where random travelers complain about every little detail.

I liked that each review also offers notes on the staff and guests, including if it seems like mostly families, couples, or business travelers. That kind of info can be hard to figure out just looking at a regular hotel booking site. Another thing I really liked is that each reviewer include why they picked that particular hotel to stay at. An example:

 

 

Even if you’re not currently planning a trip, it’s fun to look at the hotels if you’re a travel nerd like I am. I found it interesting just to see how different things like the coffee makers were, and how some of the rooms came with things I’ve never seen in the US, like pajamas provided on the bed or a “beach robe”. (Basically a waffle weave bath robe but designed to be used as a beach cover-up. Can we get those in Florida hotels, please and thanks?) Just browsing the reviews definitely stirred my wanderlust! To be totally honest they only requested that I write at least 150 words about the website, but I wound up looking at cool hotels for about two hours. Am I the only one who finds that kind of thing really fun?

 

Have you ever visited Japan? What kind of info do you like to know about a hotel before you book a stay there?