Obligatory New Year’s Resolutions Post

New Years, 2014

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I read the blogging resolutions that I made for 2013, and they were simple enough that I thought I might actually be able to follow through with them. I wanted to read more than I did the previous year, update by blog regularly, and participate in at least one read-a-thon. I basically failed to achieve everything on that list except for “create a more appealing blog layout”, though recalling what my blog layout looked like circa December 2012, that wasn’t much of a feat. I could jot down yet another bullet-pointed list of resolutions that I’m not likely to accomplish, but on the eve of 2015 I’d look at it and lament over lost opportunities. So instead I’ll make it simple.

My 2014 resolution for reading/blogging/writing:

Just My Cup of Tea: A Blank Slate

A (long) while ago, I ran a brief series about finding a designated tea mug for my post-college life. I wanted one that said a little something about me as an individual. Bonus points if it acted as a conversation starter as I awkwardly navigated my way through my first nine-to-fives (or more accurately, eight-to-five-with-an-hour-for-lunches). I never did find that perfect tea mug. To be honest, it’s for the best. I’ve discovered on days that I’m really frantic, I have a tendency to punch my mug of morning brew spilling it all over my important paperwork. Now I only drink from a travel mug that my office provided me. Just to clarify, I received the mug because there were extras, not because I’m clumsy.

Even though I’m destined to drink from work-provided travel mugs for the rest of my life, I decided to bring back this feature. Simply put, compiling a post of tea mugs to fit a certain theme (for example, animals) was really fun. I’m jump-starting Just My Cup of Tea with a blank slate.

Behold! The simple, white teacup:

Any time I mention to my mother that I want to own white shoes/shirts/cats, she gives me a horrified look. She knows that I’m almost definitely going to scuff or stain the pristine fabric by the end of the day. Usually while I’m standing still. But, should I deny myself the opportunity to drink tea from a proper teacup on the likely chance that it will end up permanently tea stained by the end of the day? I say nay!

Vintage Gladding McBean, Cloud Nine tea cups via SageGoods@Etsy

 1960, Gladding McBean, Cloud Nine teacups via SageGoods@Etsy

I’m not going to pretend to know anything about mid-century, modern dinnerware, but apparently there are books about it. Like a pair of white Chuck Taylors, these teacups are timeless.

Vintage White Tea Cup via  thesistersoberth @ etsy

Vintage White Tea Cup via thesistersoberth @ etsy

Nobody said white teacups had to be plain. The dot and stripe texture and the unique handle give this sweet little cup some flair.

Magisso Tipping Teacup via Finnstyle

Magisso Tipping Teacup via Finnstyle

This teacup is ingenious! Tip to the side with the tea leaves to steep. Tip to the other side to drink and enjoy.

Hidden Animal teacups via Uncommon Goods

Hidden Animal teacups via Uncommon Goods

If you’re on tumblr, then I’m sure you’ve stumbled across these mugs at least once. But, I had to include them on this list. What’s sweeter than finding an adorable ceramic bear staring back at you as you sip your tea?

Which of these white teacups do you fancy? Alternately, since we’re ringing in the new year in a few days, do you plan on making any resolutions?

BRB!

It’s not like I have a perfect blogging attendance record, but posts will be popping up even more sporadically for a while due to the death of my laptop, Agent Nedd II. While I will miss the opportunities to blog from my couch, mostly I want to pop on the Geto Boys and go all Office Space on that blasted Toshiba. That was the worst computer I’ve ever owned.

 

When did book series become so complicated?

Figuring out book series these days is difficult. It’s not like the good ol’ days of Harry Potter where there were seven books in the series and you could tell easily in what order to read them because of the nice numbers on the spine of the book.

Harry Potter

These days there are supplemental novellas popping up all over the place, like Julie Kagawa’s Iron’s Prophecy or Winter’s Passage or Summer’s Crossing. I actually purchased two of these back before I was familiar with Julie Kagawa, so I didn’t realize they weren’t stand alone stories. These new novellas have really throw me for a loop the past year and a half. I have about a half a dozen of these supplemental novellas on my Nook. For books I don’t even own. I don’t know how I keep missing that key bit of information.

I don’t know if these novellas are entirely relevant to the story line, but I do understand that they may flesh out the story since they provide different points a view and perceptions. I haven’t actually ready one of these novellas though. I guess I’d rather spend my time and money on full length novels, though sometimes I feel like I’m missing out even if it is only 70 pages.

Cassandra Clare the Mortal Instruments the Infernal Devices

And there is series within series—like Cassandra Clare’s books. Mortal Instruments came first. Then she wrote the Infernal Devices to delve deeper into the history of the world and characters she created or something. I read sometime last year that she is (potentially) writing a third series revolving around the Downworld and the Shadowhunters. I’m not really one of her die-hard fans, so I don’t know if that was just hearsay or if the information was legit. Anyway, I honestly started freaking out half way through the Clockwork Angel because I thought I was reading Clare’s series out of order and thus missing out on a lot of really cool things. I thought I was supposed to read the Mortal Instruments first. After talking to one of my co-workers who thinks Clare is the bee’s knees, I learned that’s not necessarily the case. I mean, her series are all related, but you don’t have to read her original series in order to understand what’s going on in the spin off.

Fast forward a bit to now. A week or so ago, I received a lovely box of books I won from a giveaway hosted by Bitching, Books, and Baking. It was filled with all sorts of enticing books, but the one I decided to read first was a book from the Vampire Diaries series. Only, I didn’t realize that the Vampire Diaries was one of those series that had series within the series (possibly within a series). I guess it’s more like…the Vampire Diaries Franchise. And unlike Cassandra Clare’s books, it appears you actually have to have read the original series to understand what’s going on in this new one. This is what I picked up to read first:

the Vampires Diaries: the Hunters

It says “Vol. 1″ right on the cover, so the error I made is understandable. I don’t know why they don’t call it “Book 8″. Nonetheless, I feel pretty foolish. I know the Vampire Diaries is a pretty popular series, so you’d think I’d know which book to start with. It would appear though that my research abilities have become null ever since I graduated college. Anyway, I read 46 pages into my book and decided to put it down. The first few chapters are recapping what happened in previous books…and holy crap, I feel like I’m missing out! I mean…why didn’t anyone tell me sooner that exciting things actually happened in this book? Maybe they did but I stuck my nose up at them because the book is about vampires, and my track record with the mythological beasts is not a positive one (which in turn begs the question, why do I keep picking up books about vampires?). You may be pleased to know that I’ll be borrowing the Vampire Diaries: the Awakening from the library this weekend.

This all makes me very curious about what other readers think of these series based on previous series. Or, maybe it’s more accurate if I consider them multiple series that take place within the same world. Do you like them because it allows you to revel in one of your favorite worlds? I mean, I guess I’d feel that way if there was more about Hogwarts from J.K. Rowling. I’m sure even if the proceeding works were mediocre (as if that were possible) I’d still gobble them up (because Hogwarts is my home!) Or, are you tired of them popping up all over the place now? Do you think authors are clinging on to something that made them popular? Or do you think that’s the only story they have to tell? Or maybe you’re more benign about it—do you think maybe authors just like the world they’ve created and want nothing more than to just escape into writing about all of the lives that inhabit it? (Note: The Vampire Diaries might be a little different considering the later books were written by a ghostwriter instead of L.J. Smith.)

Books I want to read but haven’t because I figure I’ll put them down 15 pages in, so what’s the use? (Part Two)

Remember when I wrote that post about some classic novels I wanted to read but was too afraid to pick up because high school ruined classic novels for life? Well, to be honest I’m procrastinating. Instead of picking up one of those classic novels, I came up with a few more that have piqued my interest:

Emma by Jane Austen

Emma by Jane Austen

1. Something by Jane Austen. I don’t care if it’s Emma, Sense and Sensibility, or Pride and Prejudice—just something by Jane Austen. The Book Rat makes me feel like I’ve been missing out on life since she re-reads Austen’s works like I re-read Rowling’s. Plus, Austen has to be doing something right if people keep adapting her work into new movies and new books.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. If being regarded as one of the most important pieces of literature in the world doesn’t make you nervous, perhaps the thickness of this mammoth novels will. I probably would have gone through life not giving Tolstoy a second thought. Then, I stumbled upon the blog, Books on the Nightstand, which was doing a War and Peace reading challenge. They made the novel seem so enticing, and ever since, I’ve been tempted to pick up the novel.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

3. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Medieval England. Cries of witchcraft. YaddaRomanceYadda. Richard the Lion-heart, King John, and Robin Hood! What’s not to like? Well, Robin Hood won’t be a fox, and Richard won’t literally being a lion, for start. I’ve had my eye on this novel for a while. I’m not sure what’s keeping me. It has everything I could ask for like legendary characters, history, and adventure. I’m pretty sure the simple fact that it’s considered a classic has me sticking my nose of at it. For shame!

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

4. Any book by Kurt Vonnegut. It almost seems like everyone has read at least one Kurt Vonnegut book (except me), and everyone seems to admire his work. But…what if I’m the only person who doesn’t like Vonnegut? Or worse, what if I don’t get it. The problem with Vonnegut is I’ve built him up in my head as some literary genius that I’ve become weary that it will all just be one huge disappointment.

Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

5. Same thing with Faulkner (except, I haven’t actually met anyone who has read his work and liked it…). I want to read anything by Faulkner. The Sound and the Fury. As I Lay Dying. Light in August. Absalom, Absalom! Go Down, Moses. Faulkner’s books seem so full of things I love—experimental writing styles and an array of vivid characters. What I’m afraid of? Well, again my own expectations. I honestly feel I might actually enjoy Faulkner’s work. But, what if it turns out he’s not half as good as Mark Twain or Flannery O’ Conner?

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker

6. Dracula by Bram Stoker. Honestly, I’ve never met a vampire book that I really enjoyed. Nor have I seen a vampire movie that kept my undivided attention. So, I’m starting to think there is something wrong with 20th century (and later) vampires. There must be something about vampires that make people obsessed with them, and I wonder if maybe Dracula holds the key. Or, maybe not. Maybe it will just reinforce my idea that vampires are really, really lame.

For the sake of keeping with my New Year’s Resolutions, which book should I pick up first?

One can never have too much pumpkin in their life

In my neck of the woods, Autumn is here! The leaves are a vivid hue of red, orange, and yellow. The mornings and evenings are crisp, and sometimes I can see my breath. The afternoons tend to be drizzly and cool, but after such a dry and hot summer, I welcome the rain. And to add to the coziness of the season, I’ve already lit some fires in the fireplace. This year, Michigan has offered me the finest Autumn I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience.

Every Autumn, I get a hankering for pumpkin everything. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin Spice lattes from Jackson Coffee Company. One thing I’ve yet to try is pumpkin spiced or pumpkin flavored teas. So, for my very first B&T Wishlist, I wanted to show off the pumpkin-y teas I’ve been pining for this season.

1. Pumpkin Spice by Culinary TeasBlack tea, hibiscus, rosehip, almond pieces, cinnamon pieces, rooibos, vanilla pieces, apple and orange pieces, sunflower and Calendula petal, and natural pumpkin flavoring
The pumpkin is listed last, which makes me wonder if the “pumpkin” is more subtle compared to the “spice”. Still, my interest has been piqued.

2. Sweet Autumn Tea by LupiciaChestnut flavored rooibos with chunks of Japanese sweet potato and pumpkin
The chestnut flavored rooibos is what caught my eye first. My first experience with chestnut flavored tea was a positive one, so I’m more apt to try another. I’m also curious how the chunks of vegetables will flavor the tea.

3. Pumpkin Spice Rooibos by Tea Guys – pumpkin pieces, freshly milled fall spices, a hint of cream, and sweet candied peanuts with organic honeybush & rooibos
You guys, doesn’t this sound absolutely divine? Just reading the description makes me feel all warm and cozy. I think this would be a delicious dessert tea, plus I’m very curious about the sweet candied peanuts. Peanuts in tea? Okay, I’ll bite.

5. Pumpkin Chai by DAVIDsTEABlack tea, cinnamon, cloves, lemon peel, squash, carrot, caramel bits, pumpkin candies, natural and artificial flavouring
For starters, I’ve heard so many positive things about DAVIDsTEA that I’ve decided I need to try out the brand as soon as possible. The company seems to be wildly creative with their tea flavors– Banana nut bread? Cheeky Lychee? Jolly Jelly Bean?! Hello! Count me in.

6. Roasted Pumpkin Mate by Fusion TeasRoasted mate, organic honeybush, organic rooibos, buckwheat, mace, ginger, toasted rice, cinnamon, candied peanuts, pumpkin pieces, sweet potato, caramel pieces, pumpkin seeds, natural flavors, stevia leaf
This sounds fairly similar to the Pumpkin Spice Rooibos, but the Mate should give the brew a nice kick of caffeine!

 

What sort of pumpkin treats do you like to munch on during the Autumn months? Is there a pumpkin flavored beverage you turn to when the temperature drops?

Blogging & Busy Schedules

Blogging seems to go by the wayside whenever I experience changes in my life. It takes me a moment to get adjusted to my new schedule. …Oh, who am I kidding?! I was never the diligent and almost daily blogger I like to pretend to be in real life! But please, allow me brag for a moment.

Dearest Books & Tea readers– I got a new job! (Like a month and a half ago, but nevermind that.)
No longer do I have to repeat ad nauseam: “Thank you for calling {insert Credit Union name here} where you can earn instant cash back on a new auto loan. This is Jacqueline; how may I direct your call?” And no longer do I have to smile until my cheeks hurt while talking to upset customers “members”. I am no longer a receptionist. Nay dear readers, you are now looking at Jacqueline the Accounting Assistant (I)! Quite an odd profession for an English major. Funny how life turns out.

On top of actually looking forward to going to work in the morning, I get my own office, my own business cards, and my own name plate for the office door. They even offered to buy me a coffee pot for my office! Do you understand the magnitude of this? I turned them down on the coffee pot for fear that I might never leave my office.

Aside from work, I’m also taking a course over at the community college– Intermediate Accounting. And, it’s totally kicking my bum.

In the weeks I’ve been away from the blog, I’ve really missed it. And in this instance, I haven’t even hit a “slump”. I have a notebook sitting on my desk at work where I jot down blog ideas as they come, but I’m not setting aside the time to actually write. I really would like to figure out a proper blogging routine. And this time, I mean business. See, I even gave Books & Tea a facelift!

Which brings me to my topic of discussion: How do you balance reading and blogging with your busy schedule? (Because heaven knows I was a slacker even when I had all the time in the world on my hands.) How do you find enough quiet time to invest in reading? Do you make your family sign binding contracts that ensure they won’t bother you between 9:00pm-10:00pm? Or do catch up on reading during your lunch breaks? What about blogging? I know a lot of you write articles days in advance– Do you pick a day and crank out as many posts as your creative mind will allow or do you have a designated blogging hour every day? Let me in on your secret. What’s your reading or blogging routine?

Bookshelf Envy

Occasionally, I’ll watch the vlogs created by fellow book bloggers, or I’ll view their IMM/Stacking the Shelves/Book loot posts. Usually they person is perched in front of their glorious bookshelves that show off the pristine book spines of the books they’ve accumulated over the years. And for a moment I’m stung by book shelf jealousy. I don’t have bookshelves, so my books are either stacked in desk drawers, on top of my dresser, or on the floor. Sometimes I dream of having my own library. But then, what book lover doesn’t?

In my library, I would have bookshelves built into the walls, and they would be filled to the brim with books upon books. New books I can’t wait to read. Old books I thoroughly enjoyed. Comfort books I revisit time and time again when I need my spirits lifted. A collection of “classics” just in case I’m visited by a book snob who judges people based on what they read, but in all actuality they’ll probably just sit there collecting dust. Maybe I’ll have some bookish tchotchkes like Hermione Granger’s Time Turner or a replica of The One Ring.

In my library I would have two very comfortable recliners of the rocking variety. Only one would probably get used, but I’d want a second one just in case my boyfriend wanted to read his Charles Bukowski books or his World War II books while I’m reading a young adult novel. Between the two recliners would be a table for a small table lamp and giant mug of hot tea or cocoa depending on my mood. In front of the recliners would be one of those tacky animal skin rugs (faux animal skin of course). Like a bear or a tiger. Extra points if it has a head and paws. And in front of that there would be a fireplace for those cold winter evenings.

On one wall would be a bay window, with a bench to sit on. I could enjoy the scenery and the sun’s warmth. Maybe crack open the windows on a late Spring day to enjoy a nice, clean breeze.

But, I know this will never happen. I can’t see myself ever accumulating enough books to have a personal library because I’m not a book hoarder. There are only two reasons why I’ll hang onto a book I’ve already read.

  1. It’s a comfort book. It’s a book I know I will return to years down the line. The books I will reread. The Harry Potter series. The Hobbit. The Great Gatsby.
  2. It’s a book I’m saving for a future generation. I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a niece or a nephew. But, if I do I’ve started a collection of books especially for them. Books that struck a chord with me growing up. Books that were my favorites growing up. Books I want to share with my future kin.

I have a hard timing holding onto books if I know I won’t read them again. I feel guilty for doing it! Books took me on adventures. Gave me characters that I could relate to so I didn’t feel so alone in this universe. Showed me the world from different points of views so I could put things in perspectives. And here they are, collecting dust in drawers and dressers and floors. That’s not the purpose of books. So, I usually donate my books. I’d say I pass on about 80% of my books. Most of the time I donate them to the libraries around town. Sometimes I pass along books to friends. Sometimes I trade books in at the local used book store for books I haven’t read yet. One of these days, I intend to hold a giveaway here at Books & Tea, so I can pass along amazing reads to people who are as passionate about books as I am.

I need to invest in a small bookshelf soon since my books are scattered throughout the house. Until then, I’ll live vicariously through you, fellow bloggers. And through a website I found via Tumblr called Bookshelf Porn. Check out these beauts!

 

What about you? What do you do with all the books you’ve already read? Do you keep them and fill up your glorious bookshelves or do you donate them? Do you ever dream of having a personal library? What sorts of things do you dream of having in your personal library?

Where Have I Been?

*Blows the dust off of blog* Wow! Has it really been a month since I last posted? That was surely unintentional. Let’s face it. I’m kind of a homebody, so it’s not like I was gallivanting around town and having adventures. What really happened?

I hit a reading slump. That dreaded reading slump.

I knew it was bound to happen. I’d read so many amazing books back to back to back. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Matched by Ally Condie. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (review to come shortly). What were the chances that I would pick up a fifth book that was equally amazing as the ones I read recently? Don’t get me wrong. I am actually enjoying my current read, Timeless by Alexandra Monir. The time travel aspects are cool, especially since it takes place during a time I’ve not read much about, the Gilded Age, and the atmosphere Monir creates during the moments in the past is wonderful. But, I also find it easy to put down for reasons I can’t quite figure out. It’s not the kind of book that makes me want to curl up and attempt to read it in one sitting. I’ll post more on Timeless once I finish the book and ruminate about what didn’t quite work for me. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever started a book that sent you into a sort of reading slump? Which book was it?

It would be dishonest of me to say that this one book was the sole cause of my reading slump though. Perhaps the greater of the two factors would be my obsession with the TV show Eureka.

Eureka is science fiction and comedy and drama and romance. It’s wildly imaginative and incredibly character driven. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever had to pleasure to watch. And let’s just say, when it comes to Eureka, it’s one of the few times when I would actually encourage someone to put a book down and watch TV. The final season of the show is currently being aired, so the boyfriend and I had a Eureka marathon over the past two weeks.

During my unexpected time off from blogging, I realized how much I missed it though. I missed discovering new books that made me want to stay up past my bedtime. I missed writing about books. And I especially missed reading other book bloggers’ posts. Speaking of other book bloggers’ posts, I just took a peek at my Google Reader…Over 1,000 unread posts! I guess it’s a good thing I have Tuesday off. 1,000 unread posts? Bring it on!