New Year, New Plan – 2018

Another new year is upon us, and with that comes reflection of the past year and a chance to start anew. If you want to see how last year went, you can check out my recap here.

This year, there are some changes coming to my life. The biggest worth mentioning is that I am starting classes to pursue a career change – from library tech to teacher. I’m not sure what else is in store, but I need some goals to help make it a good year, right?

  • Reading – This year I am doing an alphabet challenge (check out my page to see the details and my progress). I will also be challenging the students at my school to do this when we return in January. You can also track my reading log on goodreads.
  • Photography – I’m not planning a 365 day challenge again, as I have proven many times I’m not disciplined enough to do it. Instead, I will drop it down to a 52-week challenge, meaning that I will strive for once a week. There are actually two challenges I found that I think will help me achieve this. Continue to follow me on Instagram to see my weekly captures, along with everyday life.
    • 52 Frames and Brooke Murphy’s Project 52
    • Another thing I started this year and hope to continue is #LifeCaptcha. This takes place on the 19th of each month, and every hour at :44 past (or as close to as I remember), I capture a part of my day.
  • Writing – I am still planning on doing NaNoWriMo, and will continue to write stories on my own. I’m also planning on journaling, though how that will look like I’m not entirely sure. I’ll be sure to share prompts if I decide to follow something consistent. I feel with the career change coming up, it would be a good idea to keep my head focused and give me an outlet to unwind after what is sure to produce stressful days.
  • Health/Exercise – I’m not going to commit to weight loss or anything like that. Instead I will just be striving for a more healthier me.
    • Exercise wise, hubby and I recently joined a martial arts studio and are learning Tai Chi (okay, so hubby is relearning as he did it as a child, but I’m new to it). Classes are twice a week, plus a weekly private lesson we share. In addition, we started biking last year and its something we both still enjoy, so when the weather is nice, I hope to continue that at least once a week.
    • Health wise, my plan is to increase my water intake (did you know you should drink more than 2 glasses of water a day? I struggle to even get one some days!) and continue to make healthy food choices (does that mean ice cream is off the list?).
  • Sewing – I sewed my first piece of clothing last year and would like to continue learning to sew and make my own clothes. Hubby and I have the desire to get back into the Renaissance Faire scene, and I’m pretty sure making my own costumes would be cheaper.
  • ??? – This is left blank because I’m sure there is something else I want to do or something I’ve left out, and that would go here. Maybe its something that will come up as the year progresses.

What about you? What’s your plan for the new year? Any goals/resolutions you are striving to complete? Let me know so we can encourage each other!


Recapping 2017

Alright readers, it’s that time in our lives – the changing of the years. That famous time for looking back and evaluating our lives and making promises of things to come. So, let’s do just that – let’s take a look back and see what I wanted to accomplish and if I reached my goals …

  • Reading – I set a goodreads goal of reading 25 books (not including ones I read as part of library lessons) and I did succeed in that. I also wanted to complete a reading challenge set forth by Modern Mrs Darcy. She created two challenges and I set the ambitious goal of completing both. I did not reach that goal, only completing one. You can read about that here, as well as seeing reviews on both this blog and visiting my goodreads account. Click here to see my “year in review” via goodreads.
  • Exercise/Health – I did not complete a marathon and have actually put that idea on hold indefinitely as I continue to heal an old ankle injury, but I did make strives on being a more healthier version of me. One major accomplishment in this area is that I have biked one-way the entire length of the American River Bike trail (about 32 miles in length) in a single trip.
  • Photography – I continued participating in Fat Mum Slim‘s daily photography challenge, and once again failed to complete an entire month, or even an entire year of photographs. But I did capture some images I’m sure will be favorites in future years. Below are my top 9 photos on Instagram.vinotea_full
  • Writing – I again participated in NaNoWriMo, though I did not finish my novel. I also continued writing for fun, along with book reviews.
  • Blog – I don’t think I posted much more than book reviews this year, but thanks for sticking around regardless.
  • Personal projects – Still a work in progress making my house my home and I’ve taken up sewing as a hobby. The letter project is still in progress.

2017 Reading Challenge Recap

Here is the challenge I set to complete for 2017 – Modern Mrs. Darcy 2017 reading challenge. With the year at a close, it is time to officially tell you how I did …


Book List: 2 of 12 complete

  • A book you chose for the cover
  • A book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able
  • A book set somewhere you’ve never been but would like to visit
  • A book you’ve already read
  • A juicy memoir – Rise: How a House Built a Family
  • A book about books or reading
  • A book in a genre you usually avoid
  • A book you don’t want to admit you’re dying to read
  • A book in the backlist of a new favorite author
  • A book recommended by someone with great taste
  • A book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven’t read yet: NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
  • A book about a topic or subject you already love



Book List: 12 of 12 complete

  • A Newbery Award winner or Honor book – The Girl Who Drank the Moon
  • A book in translation: GermanMy Family for the War
  • A book that’s more than 600 pages: 665 pagesThe Marvels
  • A book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection: PoetryBrown Girl Dreaming
  • A book of any genre that addresses current events – I Am Malala
  • An immigrant story – Shooting Kabul
  • A book published before you were born (1983): Original publication, 1979Stephanie
  • Three books by the same author: The Boy of a Thousand Faces, The Houdini Box, and WonderstruckBrian Selznick
  • A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author: Emery LordWhen We Collided
  • A book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending – Bluebird
  • A book nominated for an award in 2017: Stonewall Award, Children’s and Young Adult LiteratureIf I Was Your Girl
  • A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award winner: 2016 National Book Award, Young People’s LiteratureMarch: Book Three

Rise: How a House Built a Family

Sorry for not posting this earlier, I totally thought I did.

A juicy memoir … I don’t remember how I heard about this book, and because it’s been a few months I don’t remember exact thoughts about it, so I am just going to share my review from goodreads…

Rise: How a House Built a FamilyRise: How a House Built a Family by Cara Brookins

Like most people Cara encountered during her build, I thought it seemed crazy that someone could build a house just learning off of YouTube, but her journey, both with building a house and the struggles that come up, as well as her personal struggles with domestic-violence, it seemed as though she had no where to go but up.

Memoirs are not something I normally read, but the message behind her book fits in with the idea of having a growth mindset the staff at my school is trying to teach our students … not giving up, and the idea that if you can build a house, you can do anything… (whatever a “house” might be to that individual – I almost feel that could be a metaphor for something challenging in your life)


I had a different book in mind for the last category in the lower half of this year’s reading challenge: A book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending. However, I found the original book hard to finish (Fahrenheit 451), and not wanting to leave this part unfinished, I searched the web for recommendations and found another book.

Bluebird is a wordless picture book. To give you a brief summary, the story follows the journey of a bluebird (the title character) who watches the boy from a distance struggle in school and with people. They then develop a friendship until tragedy strikes.

This book is said to have an ambiguous ending because you would assume (as adults do) that the bluebird has died. But if that is the case, why does he seem to fly away in the final panels? Perhaps it is symbolic for something else, or perhaps he has let the bird free. The story, being a wordless one, leaves it to the reader’s imagination.

Reading reviews on goodreads, there are some who thought it might be too much for a child. I would say otherwise, especially seeing the things kids are exposed to through video games and TV nowadays. Kids understand more than we give them credit for, and perhaps this would be a good introduction about death if it was a topic you hadn’t talked about before with a child.

Overall, I would give it 4 stars, as it was stunning artwork. The author is said to have taken 10 years to write the story, and I for one think it was worth his time and effort.

My goodreads review …
BluebirdBluebird by Bob Staake

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A boy befriends a bluebird, but tragedy strikes at the end.

I could see how the ending could upset some people, as its not what you might expect from a children’s story, but at the same time, I feel as though it gave the book a happy ending.

I Am Malala

Another check mark on my “to-read” list – this book meeting the “current events” requirement of my reading challenge. And yes, education and women’s right is certainly a current event. Even in America it is something we are still battling.

This time I read about an autobiography of a girl from Pakistan – Malala Yousafzai.

If you haven’t heard of Malala, you should really go look her up. Seriously! She is 20 years old and starting college this fall, but she has been in the news since she was like 11. What really brought her to the public eye was speaking out in favor of girls attending school, which the Taliban was denying the girls in Pakistan.

Then, in 2012, as she was en route home from school, she was shot, along with two friends. She was eventually brought to the UK for treatment and recovery, and then stayed there to finish her schooling with her family.

Like the last book I read, I felt a draw to Malala, thinking we were similar despite growing up in different cultures and countries. For one, we both love school. I have known for a long time that I wanted to be a teacher. Well, I’m not one today, but I do what I feel is a close second – library tech. Instead of planning lessons for a class of 30 or so students, I plan library lessons and story time for all 650 kids that attend the school and visit the library throughout the week. No, its not quite the same, but I think it’s something I could live with, especially since reaching that teaching dream doesn’t seem to be financially reachable at the moment.

Another draw I have to Malala is that we both felt our passion for what we wanted to do in live early on. In chapter 1, Malala mentioned that though she “certainly didn’t understand politics…[she] felt a pull to the weighty world of the men.”. Then, when she was ten and learned of the death of Benzair Bhutto, she felt the calling to fight for women’s rights and education, and has been going strong ever since. For me, the call as I mentioned in the last paragraph, was teaching. I remember “playing school” during the summers, and when I grew out of the elementary-age programs at church, I went back but as a helper, preferring that to hanging out with kids my own age. Even at school, I preferred to hang out in a teacher’s classroom during lunch or after school instead of the crowded areas of the courtyard or lunch room. Perhaps why working as a library tech seems like a good replacement for being a classroom teacher – I get the aspect of planning lessons, but without all the hassle of student behaviors, as I only see classes for about 30 minutes a week.

Read my goodreads review below for some passages that stood out to me … And go check this book out! I read the young reader’s edition, but would be willing to read the ‘adult’ version as well, to learn more about Malala’s life from her own voice.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition)I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had heard of Malala, and her story has been on my “to-read” list for some time now. I’m glad its one I can finally check off.

I like how Malala is a girl just like I am. Even though she is from a different country, culture, religion, we have similarities still. I also like how she justifies arguing with her brothers also – “…when Khushal fights with me, I oblige him.”

There were a few lines that I was drawn to:
1) In talking about moving to the upper school, Malala writes: “In a country where so many people consider it a waste to send girls to school, it is a teacher who helps you believe in your dreams.” (chapter 10) – I think this is true even in America. Teachers have such an impact on their students, more so than the teacher may ever realize.
2) When going through the ups and downs of life, the words of Malala’s father, Ziauddin, seem like encouragement when you’re scared – ‘”At night our fear is strong, jani,” he said. “But in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again.”‘ (chapter 10)
3) When Malala offers to keep a diary for the BBC about life under the Taliban and her dad is torn about his daughter being vocal about the same issue he is fighting for, her mother, Toor Pekai, seemed to side with Malala – ‘She gave us her answer with a verse from the Holy Quran. “Falsehood has to die,” she said. “And truth has to come forward.”‘ (chapter 12)
4) When learning there was a death threat against her from the Taliban, I like how Malala approached it when she saw her father was worried. She was calm, but saw her father was near tears and responded ‘”Everybody knows they will die someday. No one can stop death. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a Talib or from cancer..”…” Aba,” I said. “You were the one who said if we believe in something greater than our lives, then our voices will only multiply, even if we are dead. We can’t stop now.”‘ (chapter 20)
5) Malala’s dream, I think, is one that many others agree with, myself included – “Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country-this is my dream. Education for every boy and every girl in the world. To sit down on a chair and read my books with all my friends at school is my right. Te see each and every human being with a smile of true happiness is my wish.” – and as stated when she addressed the United Nations – “One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.” (epilogue)

Shooting Kabul

I know your initial thought on that title is that this has something to do with guns. But actually, the “shooting” refers to a camera, one of the items Fadi brings with him when his family escapes from the Taliban in Afghanistan to refuge in America.

This book meets the challenge of an immigration story.

It is a fiction story based in 200-2001, but it is based on the real-life story of the author’s husband’s family’s escape in the 1970s.

I enjoyed this book, and would be willing to add it to my school’s library collection. It is something I think could help students better understand the many refugees that are coming from the Middle East.

Below is my goodreads summary/thoughts:

Shooting KabulShooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

I don’t remember where I heard about this book, but I chose it because I needed an immigration story for my yearly reading challenge.

This story is one I think any immigrant can relate to, especially those coming from the Middle East. It is a fiction story set in 2000-2001, but it was based on the author’s husband’s real-life back in 1970s.

As Fadi and his family are fleeing the Taliban for freedom, his younger sister Miriam is lost in the crowd. Fadi feels guilty and responsible that she is not with them when the family reaches America. He has a hard time adjusting until he hears about a photography club in his middle school. The grand prize winner gets to pick their choice of destination, including India. He has now figured out his chance to save his sister and return honor to his family.

When his camera is destroyed by some bullies in the wake of 9/11, Fadi losses all hope of finding his sister. The winner of the photography contest is announced and at the ceremony, a certain photograph catches his attention.

I liked how Fadi and I have something in common – photography. We both enjoy taking photos. It bridged the cultural gap and helped me relate to him. I also liked how he found inspiration and could relate to the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in aspects of his flight and new life in America. His struggle in the toy store is something I think people who have gone through traumatic events can relate to – something so simple triggering those feelings buried down deep.

Definitely a book for older kids to read to help them put themselves in the shoes of some of the refugees that are entering their classrooms.

The author wrote a second book in which Fadi’s younger sister appears, and I’m interested in seeing how she too has adjusted to life in America.