Friday, July 3, 2015

Book Review: "Spinster" by Kate Bolick



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Kate Bolick is older than 30, has never been married and doesn't have any kids. This doesn't maker her a part of the "vast majority" of married women with children. She's been in a lot of long term relationships, but none that were so important/special/whatever the right word is, that she would give up her independence.

Interwoven with her stories she talks about Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
Edna St Vincent Millay and Edith Wharton. Honestly, I don't know much about any of these women (though I have read "The Yellow Wallpaper" which is awesome and creepy and based on Charlotte's real experiences with postpartum depression).

I kind of struggled with this book, and didn't really like it but I can't really put my finger on why. I think it's fine that Kate chooses to be single, so it's not like I'm upset with her for that life choice. I think maybe I feel like the book is trying to be too many things. It's a memoir and it also talks about these other ladies. I think maybe the format is part of my problem, like I want cleaner separation between talking about herself and the other ladies? Maybe I just don't like her writing style?

This is probably the least helpful review in the history of reviews. I guess all I can say is that, for me, parts were kind of interesting (mostly the parts on Charlotte Perkins Gilman) but the rest of it was kind of a struggle to get through. I give it 2 out of 5 stars.

Did anyone else read this book and love it? Or hate it? Or and weirdly indifferent about it and that it makes them feel guilty for some stupid reason? Oh well, not every book you read will be your next new most favorite!


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I received this book for free in exchange for a fair review from Blogging for Books

Thursday, July 2, 2015

All Lady July Book Review: "Gulp" by Mary Roach

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Oh Mary Roach, making science and disgusting things be interesting and fun. Her book "Gulp" takes us on an adventure "through the Alimentary Canal", which means we are talking a bout everything from the saliva in your mouth to the waste that comes out of your body. In typical Mary Roach fashion, she takes kind of a broad topic and then does several chapters about different aspects of that main topic.

This might be a good time to say that if you are eating a meal right now, or want to be eating a meal in the next 30 minutes or so, maybe you should save this review for another time. Really, it's in your gag reflexes' best interest.

I'm just going to give a couple of factoids that I thought were great from different chapters and hope that that intrigues you enough to pick up this book for yourself.!

There's a chapter about saliva. Did you know that excessive salivation might be a symptom of mercury poisoning?

There's a chapter about chewing. Each person's chewing style is completely unique to them, it's almost like a fingerprint. I was thinking, "uh really? I don't know about you but generally my jaw only goes one way". But the more I read the more I learned. Some people are up and down, some are more side to side, some people chew their food into mush before they swallow, some people barely chew it enough so they don't choke!

Of course there's talk about rectum and poop, so here's that info:

A prison slang term for rectums is "prison wallet". So. Yep. Bust out that fact around your grandma and the potato salad at the next summer get together.

Here is my favorite quote of the book. Mary asks an expert (I forget in what) what would happen if a terrorist tried to take down a plane by smuggling a bomb on board using his "prison wallet".

"Crump says a rectal bomb wouldn't bring down a plane. At the most you'd just blow the seat apart".

As a person who worries about literally everything when she's flying, that gave me some relief.

As far as Mary Roach books go, it's not my favorite. (I think Stiff will always be my favorite), but I liked it more than Spook. If you're a science/health/nutrionist or something of the like I bet you would get an especially good kick out of it, but I think it's still a fun read for anyone in general. (Provided they don't mind some talk about poop!) I give it 3 out of 5 stars!

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

All Lady July kickoff!!!

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It's ALL LADY JULY!!!!!

Let's pause for a dance party, yes? Yes!











(Ironically, neither Arnold nor Tom are my favorite people but I couldn't resist. I love Raving Arnold and a lot of my dance moves mirror Mr Cruises', which is not good.)


Alright, let's put the dance party on hold and talk about what you're going to get in this year's celebration of All Lady July!

We've got book reviews! We've got a great link roundup! We've got an author interview! We've got great literary gift ideas! We've got guest posters! (If I get my act together) We've got a giveaway! We've got women talking about women who are awesome! And more! I'll try not to bombard you with too many posts, but you will be getting more content than usual this month. If you're new to this month long celebration of wonderful women, welcome! So happy to have you here. If even know you're like, "holy cow I must guest post this month at LE I have so much to say about women and books!" you just get in contact with me, there's room for you!

At the end of the month all of the posts will be compiled under the All Lady July tab on the top of the page. Tip of the hat to my sister Quinn who used one of her favorite apps to make the picture for this month (way better than what I had cooked up in picmonkey, haha)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Considering a Viking river cruise?

I was looking for a post like this when I was preparing for the cruise, so hopefully someone else will find this and be helped! Some of them are just general travel tips...This is the last of the cruise posts. Hope that you enjoyed them or that they at least had pretty pictures to look at!

Departure port consideration
Our vacation was from Berlin to Prague, but we didn't get on the boat in Berlin. It was a 2 hour bus ride from Berlin to Magdeburg where we got on the boat and where we (eventually) sailed from. It didn't feel like 2 hours because we drove about 40 minutes, spent at least 4 hours in Potsdam and then finished the drive to Magdeburg. However, another cruise that we were looking at another cruise that went from Paris to Prague, but the actual getting on the boat location was 4 hours away. Just something to think about!

"So where are you from?"
You'll get this question a lot, and some of those people will not be americans. Take a screenshot on your phone of the United States so you can point right to where your state is; it's easier than trying to explain it. Or else you'll have this conversation: "We're from Wisconsin....it's towards the top of the country, in the middle, parts of us touch Canada but there's a big lake on one side. Yep, lots of cows. Also that's where Harley Davidsons are made. And Jockey underwear. And Snap-on tools. Yep, lots of farms. No neither of us live on a farm we live in good sized cities." (okay you won't have that conversation unless you're from Wisconsin but you know what I mean)

On an unrelated note also this conversation a lot:
Person: So how did you guys meet?
W/Q: We're sisters actually. We're on a sister adventure.
Person: Oh how wonderful! Now that you say that you're sisters I can totally tell!
W/Q: We have the same fat cheeks (like the part under your eyes, we have the same ones. We look alike from the top of our eyebrows to the top of our cheeks.)

But then the customs girl at Vaclav Havel airport thought we were twins, which by now you've seen enough selfies of us to know that that is a) crazy talk b) insulting to Quinn.

Bring a converter
Viking is awesome because they have USB ports and American outlets in their rooms. However, at your pre and post cruise hotels, or at the airports, you probably won't be as lucky. My converter also has 2 USB ports. Handy when you're trying to charge camera batteries and phones and the like!

Also bring: thank you notes, a few plastic bags (ziploc-esque and grocery), a couple business cards, a cheap backup pair of earbuds

Don't bring fancy shoes
Viking has a reputation for being pretty casual, not like ocean cruises that have formal nights that include suits and cocktail dresses. And when I say casual I mean at the minimum, the shirt you're wearing should be clean and have sleeves. I was at dinner in jeggings and a black old navy tshirt with a statement necklace and didn't look out of place at all. The captain's dinner is a little bit nicer, I wore a maxi dress (I packed a lot of dresses, so it wasn't like I packed it especially for this occasion). So, one or two slightly nicer options with non-flip flop sandals and you will be good to go. Leave the heels at home (too many cobblestones anyway)! I brought my Tom's but barely wore them, I lived in these crocs  (shockingly cute and incredibly comfortable, even with my high arches) and these Aerosoles (comfortable, but a little less suited if you're walking on dramatic cobblestones due to the thinner sole).

Also don't bring: more than one scarf, more than 3 pairs of shoes, too much jewelry, your own toiletries (if you know the ship will have quality ones and your hair or skin won't rebel)

Make some change
I got money converted at my local bank before going overseas. Everyone says that this isn't the best rate, but I thought it was reasonable. Also, I'm paranoid so I didn't want to show up and all of the airport ATMS are broken or something. When you land and are at the airport, buy something. Something cheap, just to get some change jingling in your pocket.It's piece of mind in case you need to use a public restroom that is "pay to pee".

Currency converter cheat sheet
I made 2 indexes cards for Quinn and I. They were both little tables about how much x amount of foreign currency was in American dollars. If you're math challenged like we are, it's a good way to keep from keeping your money situation under control so you don't end up paying more money for something then you thought. This was particularly helpful in Prague!

There are many posts out there that will talk about what clothes you should pack for any situation, and I'm generally not the most streamlined packer so I will not offer too many tips about that!

If you've got questions feel free to contact me about packing or the cruise feel free to contact me!

(None of these links are affiliated/sponsored.)


Friday, June 26, 2015

Viking Cruise Recap #5 - Prague: a city that is so beautiful and historic it deserves a week worth of posts on it's own

The morning after Dresden we had to say goodbye to most of our beloved crew and our lovely boat and move on to Prague.

We spent the rest of that day with our Viking comrades. We did a leisurely city tour, checked into our hotel and then got one more "hey, sorry about the water levels" concession: a "traditional czech dinner with folk songs and dancing". Is it something we would have done on our own? OH heck no. Was it super authentic? Probably not. Was it free, including beer and wine? Yes. Did we go? Yeah. It was pretty cheesy, but I got a cool gift for one of my friends and we didn't get pulled up to dance.

The next morning, most everyone left for home. Quinn and I had decided to stay a couple of extra days (thanks to Quinn's Hilton Rewards points!) in Prague so we switched to another hotel (Hilton Prague Old Town, great location, nice hotel, super art decor gorgeous lobby) and then met Tereza.

When we were planning this trip we knew that there was a lot of stuff we wanted to see and Prague and not a lot of time to see it. Quinn suggested we get a private tour guide for one of the days and I said I'd look into it. I eventually landed on Caput Regni Tours. All the guides are native Czech ladies, so I thought it was awesome to support a locally and female owned business. This was such a great choice. We booked a 6 hour tour that was crafted especially to see what we wanted to see, led by Tereza. We were a little nervous because 6 hours is a long time to be with a guide. We had no need to be nervous. Tereza was knowledgeable, personable and super smart. We walked at least 8 kilometers that day (some of it up a monster hill to get to a library in a monastery that I wanted so badly to see). We lunched together at Lokal, a restaurant filled with delicious Czech comfort food, and a delicious hazelnut dessert that I will have dreams about for the rest of my life I think. (I first heard about this place from Jamie, here! Thanks dear Jamie!) We saw great public art (some moving, some confusing, one at least pretty scary). Tereza took us down windy, cobblestone, ridiculously narrow streets and alleys that were completely void of other tourists.



The astronomical clock was Quinn's jam. It's not hard to see why, it's pretty beautamus!





In the Strahov Monastery on top of a hill in Prague there are 2 incredibly beautiful libraries. I saw them for the first time in the a beloved, but admittedly awful, favorite movie of mine "League of Extraordinary Gentleman." I thought they were set pieces. I found out later they were real. I thought "If I ever go to Prague I have to see those". And I did. On the top of the hill were also insane views looking down over Prague that also made it worth the hike. (Though I'd much rather have taken the tram!)








I'm not joking you guys, it was a big ass hill. But the views, oh, the views...








The little byways that Tereza took us down had no shortage of pretty doors for Quinn to shoot.




Do you guys recall me talking about the book "HHHH" all the time and the fact that it's based on the real life events of Operation Anthropoid? This is Sts Cyril and Methodius Cathedral where those terrible events actually took place. Tereza took us here (at my request) and recounted the whole story for Quinn, but we could only see the church from the outside because the crypt was closed. I of course still wanted to see the crypt, and Quinn was moved by the story too. So the next day we found our way back to the cathedral and entered the crypt. It's a solemn and important place. If you have any interest in WWII at all, this is a story that you need to be familiar with.






We climbed the tower that holds Quinn's clock and got great views of the downtown


Don't mind the flyaways, the bane of my hair existence!




I think Our Lady Before Tyn is just so striking




The crowd waiting for the clock show!


In short, Prague was amazing and beautiful and all kinds of other wonderful superlatives. I can't stress enough that if you have any inkling to see it that you should. Quinn and I have so many pictures that if I even put a quarter of them up here this page would never load. And all of them are great, because Prague is such a great subject.


We will have one last wrap up post and then all hands on deck for All Lady July!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Viking Cruise Recap #4 - Quinn's "European Las Vegas" - Dresden,saying Auf Wiedersen to the boat and some real talk about the cruise.

European vacation recap continues! I think that Quinn really out did herself with some of the pictures today, which is especially impressive considering she had a touch of the brown bag flu (*cough cough* hungover *cough). After reading this book about Dresden I felt like I was pretty prepared for what had happened to the city during the war, but it was a different thing to actually see it.

We did a city tour, and then had the afternoon free to do as we pleased. Quinn hung out on the boat and I dodged the (VERY TARDY) rain drops to explore the Old Master's Gallery by myself. That was some good art right there. I don't often get the opportunity to walk through a palace and look at art, and it is something I will treasure in my heart.

Zwinger palace is beautiful and large (aka "the party palace")

The rest of the pictures are all of "Fraukirche", Our Lady's Church. Actually a Lutheran church as you might be able to tell from the Marty statue out front. This place was completely demolished during the war. The rubble sat in the middle of town in a heap until it was finally rebuilt and finished in the 90s. Some of the original sandstones were used (they're the darker stones. In 50 years all the stones will match). The large cross on the top is a replica of the original (which was found in the rubble, and is now on display inside the church). The replica was made in England by a man whose grandpa was in the RAF an involved in the bombing of the city. (Dresden is full of these goosebumpy moments, at least it was for me). Quinn had trouble with the fact that so many places were built to look old but were actually quite new. Hence the European Las Vegas. I kind of loved it, to be honest. You get the old school charm without the leaks and tiny closets and all the other things that come with old buildings.


This is in the top 5 of my favorite trip pictures. #Skillstopaythebills






This night, after leaving Dresden just before dinner the boat pulled out and traveled through the night and docked in the Czech Republic, where we would leave the boat. Though we would all still be a group through the first day in Prague. We spent the evening (and most of the early morning, cough cough) hanging out with the crew, drinking, singing songs with our favorite Australians, sitting in the mist and watching the boat cruise through the night, and doing just a little bit of packing. We weren't worried about packing well because we figured we'd repack when we were going home. (Spoiler alert: we didn't really. We weighed and redistributed but basically the shoddy half hour packing job that we did the following morning was basically it.)

Real talk about the cruise:

- Food was super good. Dinner was at 7 everyday and there were only tables of 6 or 8. While it can be kind of nerve wracking it was good because it forced us to meet different people almost every night. We only had one regrettable set of dining partners, known to us thereafter as "the food spitters". They were the one pair of generally unpleasant people on the whole boat. We were a little nervous that we might get hungry because there was no room service (Quinn and I have been known to order room service at all hours when on vacation, don't judge); but it wasn't a problem.

- We were basically the youngest ones on the ship. There were two other girls almost exactly our ages but they were traveling with their mom and aunt. It could get a little bit frustrating (like on the at least 2 occasions when Quinn and I are having a conversation amongst ourselves and someone came up and with barely an introduction started showing us pictures of their grandkids on their phone. Um, okay?) but mostly it wasn't a problem. Everyone called us "the girls". Nearly every one of the 96 other passengers were friendly, interesting, well traveled and capable of being on a cruise.  When we would go on city tours they would offer a "leisure" group, so that those not interested/capable in keeping a faster pace could take that option. This was a very good move.We knew that we would be about the youngest people on the boat, so it's not like it was a surprise. This also helped us to make friends with the crew, which brings us to my next point...

-We, especially Quinn, got to know members of the crew pretty well. We would ask where they were from, if Viking was a good company to work for, how often they got to go home, who was dating who on the boat etc. etc. A lot of them came from Eastern Europe and left ocean cruise jobs to join Viking so they could be closer to home. Service was really impeccable. Always courteous and smiling and couldn't do enough for you.

-This was not a cheap way to travel but so much is included. It was nice to pay the bulk of money ahead of time and then have to worry about less money when the trip actually started. It was really low stress in multiple ways. We got our hands held on things like transportation and food, but then had free time to ourselves to do what we wanted. It was a good mixture for us. The time sailing was a good way to have forced downtime so you weren't "go go go go" trying to see everything the whole time.

-The trip obviously did not go quite as planned, but the crew, especially the captain and Radim, bent over backwards to try to help. Lunches were paid for, new excursions were arranged at the last minute, boats were squeezed through tiny locks all for us. From what we heard almost no one had a terrible attitude about it, because really, what can you do?

Tomorrow we go to what I think might be the most beautiful place on earth, PRAGUE!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Viking Cruise Recap #3- Avoiding a 6 hour round trip bus ride got us an awesome joyride, and surprise bears!

So originally on the itinerary the day was supposed to be spent in Meissen. If you are a person in the know, which I was not, Meissen is world famous for their porcelain. Since we were still doing more motor coaching then boat sailing Quinn and I decided that we were going to have a relaxing day on the ship instead of loading into the buses for the (what ended up being) 2 hour 45 minute bus ride each way there and back. Being ignorant of porcelain and not wanting to be on that bus for that long, we were looking forward to just being on the boat. However our captain had a surprise for us and the about, 20 other people who decided to skip Meissen. (For the record, everyone who went to Meissen raved about how beautiful the town was, but Quinn and I still talk about how thankful we are we stayed on the boat!)

Not far from where we were was a thing called the Magdeburg Water Bridge. Please don't ask me how it works because I really don't know. But the jist of it is, you go through a lock, it rises you up and you go over this bridge filled with water that passes over the top of the Elbe river. It's basically an engineering marvel. There was enough water in this area so the captain was able to take us through. We went through the huge locks, and over the bridge. Then the captain had another surprise; before turning around and heading back he was able to pull the boat over so we could hop out for a quick photo opportunity.


(Once again, and as always, pictures are Quinn's and mine, please contact us before using them)




Here we go!


Field trip fodder


Our backside


The gangplanks are surprisingly steep. I'm actually hanging on for dear life. I don't know how I never saw anyone fall. Also Quinn was yelling at me to hustle my bustle to get up the gangplank before people walked into the picture, so that explains the face. 


Not very much wiggle room going through the locks. Just a matter of inches!


The next day we went to Torgau, BY BOAT. (That's only partially true, we got picked up by the boat, we went to the town on the bus.) Torgau is "famous" as the place where the Russian forces and the Allied forces met at near the end of WWII. There's a memorial to that event and a castle and that's about the only things in town. But I liked Torgau because it seemed pretty untouched by hordes of tourists. Also, because Quinn and I bopped into a  little boutique and she bought a foxy black romper and I got a cute green and white polka dot purse. Our first souvenirs from the trip!




So what made the castle special is that there is this beautiful outdoor staircase that is special because there is no middle support. Also it's outside because that's how you show off the fact you were rich. 


So on the top of this very high tower there is a viewing platform that you can climb up to. Quinn and I had put that activity solidly in the "no thank you" column; but then our Program Director/Cruise Rockstar Radim was like "have you guys gone up in the tower yet? I'm going right now you should come with me!". And because we love us some Radim, and because we're idiots we both go "OK!". So these stairs are rickety and old and wood and spiraled. It was super hot and narrow and about 3 stories in we realized that this was a BAD idea. We neared the top and thought we were almost delivered from our suffering. And then we turn the corner and are confronted with a turnstile. Have to pay a Euro to finish this stupid climb. So luckily I was the keeper of the change, and I had enough for me and Quinn and the guy who walked us behind us and was Euro-less. The good news is that the views were beautiful.



Quinn's signature door shot! #Quinnshot


The Elbe river....and not our boat. We had to wait on the boat.



Our bartender was like "Oh watch for the bears in Torgau?" and we're like "Andrea is crazy. There's no damn bears in Germany." Andrea was right. There was a bear that lived in the palace's old moat. There used to be two but the other one died a few weeks before we got there. So, sorry Andrea, you were right!



Lots of beautiful roses in Torgau!

Tomorrow we get to Dresden, and I break it down with some real talk about the cruise.