Travel Adventures

Places I Love | The Oxford Exchange – Tampa, Florida

Whenever I travel, I try and squeeze in a visit to a recommended and local book shop or tea shop. It’s so fun to see what cities offer. Thanks to Twitter and Amelia Rhodes, I checked out Oxford Exchange.

Well, Internet, I have absolutely fallen in love with this place. Oh my word…I need one in Colorado! I didn’t get a chance to try the food (although it looked so tasty), but everything about the place is perfection. Teas (all the teas!!), coffee, pastries, a cafe, books to buy, this place has it all. It’s the place you can visit with friends, for business meetings or a place to work on anything you need. I’m obsessed. So if anyone wants to invest some cash, I can point you to the perfect area in Colorado Springs.

I bought Summer Melon, TeBella Breakfast Blend (can’t not get my English Breakfast), Georgia Peach (I tried this one there and delicious – not too sweet!) and Tropical Breeze.

So yes, if you find yourself in Tampa, don’t pass this place up! Find out more:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

I need this.

They have the best cards ever.
These teas called to me.
Any guesses which portraits I’d include?

I didn’t the full course, but they have afternoon tea people. AFTERNOON TEA.

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Bookish Radness

9 Reasons Readers Are the Easiest People to Buy Gifts For

I love finding the perfect gift for someone. It makes me happy when a gift comes as a surprise and brings joy. But then there’s some people who I have to work to find that perfect gift. I’m sure we all know someone like that. You’re worried they won’t like it or they already have it (to which I say Amazon.com Gift Card Internet). But you know who isn’t hard to buy for at all?

Readers.

I have decided we are the easiest group of folks to buy for in the entire universe. If you don’t believe me, here’s 9 reasons why I’m right 😉 Also, my birthday is in July. I kid internet! Kid!

1. You give us a book and we’re happy. Worried we already have 379 unread ones? That means nothing to us. Aren’t sure which one to get? I’ll let you in on a secret: Goodreads. The “To Read” shelf will have at least 50 to choose from. Mine currently has 394, so trust me when I say books are always a good option. If they’re not on Goodreads, I’m sure there’s an Amazon wishlist.

2. They have at least one fandom. What’s a fandom you ask? It’s a very natural and totally healthy obsession with a series, book, author etc. Why is this a good thing? Once you find out what it is, the gift options are endless. Worried you won’t ever find out what their fandom is? Don’t worry, we let the world know whether they want to know or not. I’m pretty sure my third cousin’s best friend’s mom has heard about my love of Lewis and Tolkien.

3. Buy them a fancy edition of a favorite book. Have they mentioned a favorite book? You’re in luck. For the classics that means there’s been several versions published and we love collecting all the awesome covers. Whether it’s Jane or Tollers, trust me on this – I myself own several copies of The Hobbit (even one in Latin), The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

4. If a gift shares about how awesome reading is, get it. We love pretty much anything fun about how awesome readers are and how fun reading is. We’re talking Laptop covers, iPad cases, book bags, phones cases. Really endless possibilities.

5. If they love classics, congrats, there’s an awesome online bookshop to buy things from. It’s Out of Print and for every item purchased they donate a book. I have spent a bit of cash in this store both as gifts and for myself.

6. Another shoutout goes out to Litographs because they make your life much easier as well. Anything from their shop will make a reader happy. Plus they also make a donation with every purchase. You just can’t lose.

7. You can always buy a Gift Card to B&N or Amazon or any book retailer. If you think a gift card to B&N is impersonal, let me set you at ease: it isn’t. Instead, it is seen as manna from bookish heaven. This gives us readers the chance to try something new, get an awesome edition of a favorite or buy bookish accessories.

8. Book related clothing makes us happy too. We are a proud group and we aren’t afraid to show it. I think half of my non-work shirts are related to books. Cute v-necks that express my love of epic literature? Yes please!

9. Give us a gift to help spread our love and we’re in! Find cute note cards or postcards (I happen to know of some ;)) that express the love of reading and favorite authors? PERFECT. Then we can convince our friends and families to join the reading radness club.

What do you think? Is there a group easier to buy for? What’s another reason you would add to this list (you know for an even 10)?

Bookish Radness

My Top 8 All-Time Favorite Fiction Reads

Do I dare even tackle such a list? Now before you think there’s really only eight favorites on my list, I just have to say this is me we’re chatting about! But here’s a start of some novels that have held a place in my heart for at least 10 years. You know it’s solid if it’s remained on the list for at least a decade.

Mark of the Lion Series | Francine Rivers: If you ask me for a book recommendation, this will always be the first series I recommend. Looking for a biography of the 13th President? Read Mark of the Lion. Oh, you want a story about London society after 1912? I think the story of Marcus and Hadassah is just what you need. Just kidding, I’d give you a legit recommendation, but I don’t think I can put into words how amazing this series is. If I ever meet Francine Rivers, I’m just going to hug and thank her for this book. I’ve probably read it 10 times and I only see that number increasing through the years.

Just know it’s a three book series. I did not know this and when the first book ended, I texted my friend who recommended it asking why she would think to suggest a book that just RIPPED OUT MY SOUL. Yep, my reaction was equivalent to all caps plus a bag of chips and toss in some fireworks.

I own a hard copy and the kindle version so I can read it at anytime. I also read it two weeks after I read it for the first time because it’s just that amazing. If I could only have one series the rest of my life, this would be it. (I need to confess, I only read this about 5 years ago, but I’ve read it 10+ times, so I still added it to the list.)

Dracula | Bram Stoker: Vampires? Wha? Let’s just clear things up by saying it is nothing like modern day vampire shenanigans. No, this is a classic that so fantastically demonstrates battling such evil. I’m reminded that in the fight against evil, you will battle dark forces, you will lose people, you will want to quit, but you won’t. The world will be a better place because you didn’t. I haven’t read this one in a few years, but man, what a book! My e-reader friends, it’s free, so no excuses!

Redeeming Love | Francine Rivers: That sneaky, sneaky Rivers lady. Without knowing how it happens, after reading her stories, you’re forever connected to the characters she creates and wish you could meet these people in real life. Redeeming Love was also the first Christian Fiction book I read back when I was in college. I remember my friend Lindsay, from one of my Comm classes during my freshman year (folks, I never remember details, so the fact that I remember the class, the friend and the year should tell you something ;), gave me her copy to borrow and I had the chance to read it over Thanksgiving and I devoured that sucker in about two minutes flat.

Please, read this book if you haven’t yet (which I need to point out that every monthly top seller list Lifeway releases, Redeeming Love is on it. I jest not. And it’s nearly 25 years old. In May, Francine Rivers not only had her latest (which was fantastic, see my review here), but Redeeming Love as well. P.S. IT HAS IT’S OWN WIKIPEDIA PAGE. Need I say more?

The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam | Huynh Quang Nhuong: This is one of the first books I vividly remember reading. I read through it so many times, I’ve lost count. Since growing up in Vietnam was so vastly different from growing up in my parent’s house in Orange County, California, I was so fascinated by this man’s life. Every time I read this book I wanted to do one thing: Go on an epic adventure. If my mom ever asks why I’m always fixin to do something crazy, it’s because I grew up on stories like these. It was also my Mama who gave it to me 🙂

Fire By Night | Lynn Austin: Sigh….just thinking about this book makes me want to re-read it. I think I might too. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered Dr. McGrath and Julia, so I think this summer I might change that. Not only do I love Julia’s character (and connect with her), I adore Dr. McGrath. The whole series is enjoyable, but this one shines far greater than the other two. Plus it’s Civil War (and still my favorite Civil War fiction novel), so win with that.

The Giver | Lois Lowry: I’ve talked about this one the blog enough, so I’ll keep it short. Without pain, one would never know the true depth of happiness, beauty and love. Lowry so beautifully captures this. Plus it’s coming out in the movies soon!!

The Harry Potter Series | J.K. Rowling: Duh.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee: This was one of those books I actually liked in high school and understood at the age of 16 why it was such an important piece of literature. It’s beautifully written, it’s an amazing story and Atticus Finch is one of the all-time greatest heroes in literature.

You might be wondering about the books I talk about every 27 seconds and why they aren’t on this list. Well, I figured it was a given that anything Narnia/Lewis or Middle Earth/Tolkien related are in their own category of greatest all-time anything. I mean, I have a monthly series about them internet, so of course they are my favorite of favorites. (If you want to join in The Inklings series, check it out here)

Alright, there’s the fiction list! I feel I can breathe a little easier now ;). What do you think? What are some of your favorites to add?

Bookish Radness

The 10 Step Thought Process of A Booknerd

People often ask why someone with so many books keeps buying them. Maybe a look into my thought process will help explain it. 😉

Step 1: No, I won’t buy it. I have 387 books in my TBR pile. So no. I don’t need another book.

Step 2: Wait…it’s on sale? Well, maybe I’ll think about it…..NO! I won’t do it. I’m walking away from the computer.

Step 3: Why won’t my feet move?

Step 4: Alright, I’ll comprise Self. If I finish at least two books this week, I can come back and get it.

Step 5: I don’t know, I’m here and ready to go…I don’t want to be accused of wasting precious time.

Step 6: I need to make a decision. I guess I’ll check Twitter while I’m pondering this.

Step 7: Dash it! Look at all these glowing reviews from my blogging friends! Who am I not listen to their advice? They’re my friends!

Step 8: If I buy it, I’m supporting someone’s livelihood. That makes me a contributor to the betterment of the world. How can I say no to that? I’m not a cruel or unloving person.

Step 9: Plus, the cover looks so pretty and the author looks nice. I like nice people.

Step 10: And when it comes down to it, what’s one more book right? Here we go then! Time to “Confirm Purchase!”

There you have it. That’s why us readers can’t stop buying books.

What else can I say?
Love and Faith, Ponderings

I Choose To Believe

With the new year upon us, there’s some things I want to keep believing in (I did a post like this a couple of years ago, but wanted to expand this year!).

So how about you? What are you choosing to hold onto as we make our way into 2014? I’d love to hear your thoughts and goals. As for me,

I choose to believe in Grace
I choose to believe in Second Chances
I choose to believe in Hope
I choose to believe in Love
I choose to believe in Truth
I choose to believe in Forgiveness
I choose to believe in Courage
I choose to believe in Wonder
I choose to believe in Beauty

Love and Faith

Merry Christmas!

May this beautiful Christmas hymn stir your heart!

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of Might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times didst give the law,
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Love and Faith

Christmas Eve – A Holy Night

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

O’ Holy Night – Christmas Carol

Ponderings

Happy Thanksgiving World!

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:8-9

Ponderings

Why it’s Better to Admit the Nerdy Things in Life

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of a nerd. And not just because I read a lot (although, increasing your knowledge isn’t nerdy people…it’s brilliant :). It’s because lots of the things I like and do are well, a bit nerdy. I admit I wasn’t always secure enough to freely admit this, but good thing you grow up and become much more wiser right?

Here’s the thing: in the age of the Internet there’s lots of people who portray a persona of someone they’re not. Trying to look “cool” for a world of strangers. It’s bad enough for our kids to fear being who they really are, but if they look to adults for guidance, they sometimes don’t see a difference. I vote no to that.

You do the world a disservice ignoring this because you’re uniquely you. No one else is. We’re wired certain ways for an amazing and incredible purpose only we can fulfill. That’s why I’ve learned to embrace exactly the way I was made.

So this month’s post is where I gladly admit things about me I know are totally nerdy/quirky/only I do, but still me!

1. I memorized the Gettysburg Address for chuckles because it’s one of my favorite American speeches. It’s so beautiful and profound (if you ask me to recite it in person, I might get stage fright and mess it up though). I also have it hanging on my wall.

2. I may have watched Denzel Washington’s Academy Award acceptance speeches on Youtube recently. And teared up.

3. I only eat Vanilla ice cream. It’s not that I don’t like the other ones. I just don’t mess with the best. Hate away ;).

4. I watch Disney classic cartoons on a regular basis. And still cry. I mean have you seen the part when Mufasa dies?? Good golly, I’m a bawlin mess every time.

5. I have ordered the same exact thing at Del Taco my entire life. I kinda wish I was joking, but alas, I am not. It’s the original #3: Bean and cheese burrito with red sauce, fries and a root beer. If I feel like “mixing” things up, I’ll get a Cherry Coke.

6. I buy costumes for my cat. This past Halloween he was a dinosaur. As you can tell from this picture, he was thrilled.

7. Speaking of my cat, I considered creating his own Instagram account. This still might happen people.

8. If someone offered a class to learn elvish, I’d be all over that in 2.8 seconds flat.

9. I recently needed to write a bio for myself and this is what happened: “She wishes she could go to Hogwarts, live in Narnia and hopes one day Gandalf will show up at her door and invite her on an adventure. She also could never part with Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Giver by Lois Lowry or Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers.” P.S. If you’re wondering what it’s for, check out this awesome new board I’m on here!

Well Internet, there’s a few to kick things off. Hope you enjoyed them! Now, it’s your turn! Please join in and share what makes you – you! I’d love to hear it!

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Deeanne Gist

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories of people, life, and adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

Guys.

Look who is on the blog today. Look! Yep, the very same I always mention is absolutely hilarious and how I love all her books. The bestselling author herself, Deeanne Gist! Do you know how exciting it is for me to be able to host my favorite authors on this little corner of the web? All I’m saying is I’ve been known to dance around the room from excitement. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did and be sure to pick up one of her books stat!

Deeanne Gist — known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee — has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historical & contemporary love stories. Add to this four RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

You can connect with Deeanne on at her website, Twitter or Facebook!

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
In the last five years we’ve seen 2 kids get married, 2 graduate college, and 1 move to the other side of the country to pursue a career in music. In that time, as Greg and I became empty nesters, our sweet border collie suddenly moved way up in the pecking order. He’s not *quite* top dog, but he’s close. Never did I dream we’d let him on the furniture with us, on our bed, in our hotel rooms, and hardly ever out of our sight. Our kids are all shaking their heads at this sad state of affairs.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Oh, goodness. There are too many to count, much less narrow down to one. So many words I’ve let spill out that I’d love to recapture. So many decisions I’ve made that I so wish I’d never fallen through on. So many falls I took that could have so been avoided. One thing? Hardly.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
I remember looking out the window above the kitchen sink while washing up some dishes. The day was glorious and the girls were playing hula-hoop on the deck and the boys were eating popsicles while they watched Greg work on a fort he was building for them. I remember resting my hands against the sink and thinking, “You know, life just doesn’t get any better than this.”

Before
After

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
I hope the next generation never forgets that though they are connected to “friends” all over the globe with a touch of their fingers, that it is still extremely important to have friends they spend time with, play with, and share with–live and in person. No amount of texting, tweeting, or facebooking can ever replace the rewards which come from those face-to-face, day-to-day relationships.

Thank you so much Deeanne! Such a pleasure to host you at Books and Beverages!